Leadership development isn’t just something that’s nice to have—it’s essential to the success of a company. Effective, well-trained leaders motivate employees to do their best work and hold them accountable when they don’t. They unite their teams under a common vision and manage change effectively to ensure the company is able to adapt to the demands of the future.
According to Gallup research, managers account for “70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores.” This can be a problem when an organization has poor leaders in place. Whether they’re micromanaging, not following through on commitments, deflecting blame, or withholding information, there are a number of ways these leaders can undermine trust and cause employees to become disengaged.
Ineffective leaders tend to pass bad habits on to their direct reports, which can impact the quality of a leadership pipeline. Over time, the cycle of negative consequences continues, eroding the fabric of teams and ultimately eating away at performance throughout the organization. Without effective leadership development programs and succession strategies in place to reverse these trends, these companies will soon face serious consequences that impact their bottom lines.
Here Are Three Warning Signs of Poor Leadership Development:
1. High Turnover
Employees want to have the opportunity to learn new skills and take on new challenges that help advance their career goals. When they don’t get these opportunities, they naturally begin to look for them elsewhere. It’s no surprise, then, that a recent survey of over 16,000 job-hoppers found that boredom and long hours were the top two reasons for leaving their company. Similar studies have found that career development, not financial compensation, is the top reason people cite for taking a new job. Companies that struggle with frequent turnover can usually trace their retention problems back to poor employee development.
When an organization invests in leadership assessment and development, it not only moves high-potential employees into vital roles, it also begins to build a strong succession pipeline that helps to avoid talent gaps and minimizes the disruptive impact of turnover. Employees are more likely to remain with a company when they believe they have a future there and can continue to grow professionally. Establishing a professional development plan (PDP) early in an employee’s career can help provide them with a sense of direction and purpose that keeps them engaged and committed to the organization.
2. Low Morale
When employees don’t feel like the organization is willing to invest in them, they’re less likely to be highly engaged in their work. If they are repeatedly denied opportunities to learn new skills, they’ll become easily discouraged. Unfortunately, only about 30 percent of employees are considered engaged, which quickly translates into lower productivity and morale. Over time, this dynamic can produce a toxic work environment that undermines the entire organization.
By contrast, ongoing training keeps employees sharp and helps them stay inspired. Studies have shown that mastery—becoming proficient at something a person enjoys—is one of three key factors that contribute to high levels of motivation. Frequently recognizing good work and increasing transparency throughout the organization can also help employees feel like they are valued and appreciated.
Effective leaders find ways to inspire employees and keep them actively engaged, but many current and potential leaders lack the soft skills needed to inspire their teams. Development programs with a focus on building relationships, empathizing with employees, and finding what values motivate people can go a long way toward revitalizing the workplace.
3. Lack of Collaboration
Effective managers coordinate tasks within their departments, promoting an encouraging atmosphere for idea sharing and cooperation. Poor management inhibits collaboration and causes employees to focus inwardly on their own roles or departments at the expense of the company’s larger goals.
Many leaders are promoted because they are high achievers, but only one-in-seven of them actually possess the characteristics of high-potential leaders. This makes it difficult for them to facilitate effective collaboration. They may take on more work themselves instead of holding team members accountable, or they may be unwilling to listen to the ideas of others. These bad habits can hinder a team’s ability to work together to achieve long-term goals. Over time, they can cause team members to become disengaged and isolated.
When teams spend more time criticizing one another, looking out for themselves, and deflecting accountability, it may be time to consider whether leadership is setting the wrong example for them to follow. With the right leadership development programs in place, it’s possible to turn these teams around, but it will take time for leaders to build the trust and credibility needed to facilitate productive collaboration.
While an organization with poor leadership development may suffer from high turnover, low morale, and a lack of collaboration, it doesn’t have to completely replace its workforce to get back on track. Well-designed assessment and development programs can help to identify the problem areas in leadership and begin the process of providing the support struggling leaders need to be successful. Over time, these programs can rebuild a healthy and productive culture while revitalizing succession pipelines with high-potential candidates capable of leading the organization into the future.