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Are Enterprises Expecting a Leadership Crisis Post-Pandemic?


CXOs in India feel they are better than their global counterparts on the current skills which are going to remain critical for the future. However, the overall number is still low, according to DDI’s latest Global Leadership Forecast 2021 report that throws light on the challenges of a leaders and the urgent need to rapidly transforming workplace to address this crisis.

The study published by DDI in partnership with The Josh Bersin Academy brings out specific India findings based on survey responses from over 900 business leaders and 50 HR professionals and reveals certain worrying trends about leadership in post-pandemic India.

Globally, the top challenges for the year ahead according to CEOs were clearly focused on talent, finds the study. Developing the next generation of leaders and attracting and retaining top talent ranked in the top three challenges, along with slowing economic growth, as per the study. This has emerged as one of the leading concerns for CEOs. Additionally, HR professionals indicated identifying and developing future talent continues to be a top skill they look for in leaders as it is the single-most critical skill they will need in the near future.

The leadership quality gap

The leadership quality gap is glaring across the world this year and in India too, this gap persists. In comparison to the report published in 2018, this study indicates a declining rate of 37% of HR professionals in India considering their leaders as high quality. In contrast to this, 69% of business leaders believe their leaders within the organizations are high quality, which is higher in comparison to 54% in 2018.

This, according to the researchers, it is a case of crisis response. As the pandemic hit, leaders found themselves working harder than ever to pivot the business, while trying to show empathy and connect with their teams on a more human level. And they saw how hard other leaders are working as well. As a result, they were more generous in their quality ratings.

Globally, only 11% of HRs say they have a strong bench to fill leadership roles, the lowest rate we’ve seen in the past decade. In India, bench strength is rated substantially higher than the global ratings. However, this still means that about one of every five HR professionals in India believes they have a strong bench to fill leadership roles. To develop bench strength even further, leaders should aim to create internal teams with lots of cross collaboration and skill sharing as doing so will help to better weather change.

Nonetheless, nearly two-thirds of global leaders indicate that they feel “used up” at the end of every workday, a strong indicator of burnout. It is also found that while 57% of leaders are considering changing companies to advance their careers, 20% of HR professionals feel that they have strong bench strength to fill leadership roles and most of the HRs are selecting successors internally.

In such a scenario, retaining top talent remains a challenge in many organizations as losing leaders can be costly and may cause others to decide to leave as well. The global results identified factors that influenced engagement, retention, and work dedication. Having an understanding of performance expectations, future career pathing, and feeling their direct manager genuinely cares about their well-being are the top three factors that contribute to leaders’ engagement and long-term retention.

Over the next three years, leaders see their organizations undergoing rapid transformation. As a result, they place a high priority on the skills that will enable them to line up both the technology and people resources they’ll need to make that transformation a success.

The report indicated that organizations with leaders who were stronger in five skills were more prepared to meet business challenges they faced, particularly through the pandemic. These include leading virtual teams, coaching/delegation, empathy, digital acumen and building partnerships. while the global survey indicated about 1 in 5 leaders effective in leading virtual teams, the India results indicated about 2 out of 5 leaders are effective in leading virtual teams.

The study noted that leaders in general want two things: more time to learn, and greater external validation that they’re doing the right things. It also highlights that leaders want to spend about twice the amount (41%) of time interacting than they currently do spend (27%). Furthermore, organizations seem to disproportionately support managing tasks (44%) over interacting (23%), which may make it difficult for leaders to dedicate time to interacting.

In India, leaders prefer to spend a slightly smaller ratio of time (31%) interacting than the global results. Unlike the global results, leaders in India spend almost as much time interacting as they prefer to. However, leaders in India still may feel they are unable to dedicate additional time to interacting because they feel their organization does not value it as much as managing tasks.

Leading a Digital Future

The ability to drive digital transformation will be one of the defining features that separate successful and struggling companies in the coming years. However, holistically, leaders are skeptical of their capabilities to drive digital change. This trend exists in India as well. A little more than a third of leaders feel confident with their ability to lead virtual teams. About half of the leaders in your country feel confident about their overall digital acumen skills.

“Workplace has undergone tremendous transformation in the recent past, thanks to the pandemic. While it has opened a plethora of opportunities, confidence in leadership bench strength continues to remain low. Also, a specific set of skills or competencies are going to help drive technology and people resources,” says Amogh Deshmukh, Managing Director, DDI India.

“These insights from the study clearly indicate a leadership crisis that is setting in owing to the growing disparity in what leaders want and what leaders are provided with. For business leaders and HR heads of companies there is a need to rethink and review their leadership development strategies,” he adds.

It is no secret that our world is changing rapidly as a result of the global pandemic, technology, automation, and many other economic, social, and political changes. These types of change are impacting us now, but the rate of change is anticipated to continue to increase moving forward. Leaders are under increased pressure to be agile in their roles, to upskill, adjust, and adapt to changes quickly. Leaders that emulate these characteristics are more successful in their roles.

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