A new study has some surprising news about how managers feel, suggesting that organizations should step up their game to keep top talent.
While your managers generally have ambition and enthusiasm, they too often lack the skills, support, and resources they need to be effective. At the same time, glass ceilings and myopic thinking keep some talented, innovative people from climbing the ladder; instead, they’re walking out the door. These are the findings of a new study.
Let’s start with the basics from this research:
- The average age that people first become a manager is 36. However, some people become leaders as young as 16 and as late in their careers as age 69.
- Employees are at an organization for an average of six years before they take their first step into management. Once they assume this role, 64% say they are willing to stay at the organization to progress to the next level of leadership.
- Leaders with humanities backgrounds show the strongest performance in skills focusing on people and interactions.
- The five skills leaders most need, say the study’s authors, are intellectual and cultural curiosity, 360-degree thinking, leading with digitalization, digital literacy, and leading virtual teams.
Now for some troubling news:
- New managers say they often have little support as they transition into this role. Many say they receive no training, and those who do often have to wait several years for it. On average, people are 40 years old when they are exposed to their first leadership development courses.
- Only 12% of C-suite execs are women, even though organizations with gender-diverse leadership see significant business benefits.
- The leadership gender gap isn’t due to a skills issue, the study authors say. In fact, they observe, “When comparing the leadership skills of women and men frontline leaders, women perform equally as well as men on the ‘hard skills’—planning, judgment, and decision-making—and outperform men in both leadership and interaction ‘soft skills.’”
- While people often spend thousands of dollars pursuing an MBA, the study suggests that frontline managers with this degree “showed only a minor increase in leadership behavior over those with bachelor’s degrees in business who did not go on to achieve an MBA.”
- Leaders who are labeled (accurately or not) as “high potential” receive 25% more development hours each year and twice as much funding for these activities.
- While purpose-driven companies outperform the market by 42% financially, only 28% of first-level leaders say their companies have a mission statement. This contrasts to 90% of HR professionals who say their company has such a statement, suggesting a serious communication gap.
- Only 7% of leaders say failure is strongly embraced for innovation. When encouraged or directed to be risk-adverse, the study authors suggest, managers could be missing out on new ideas and shared learning.
- 59% of frontline leaders want more formal learning, including 65% of millennials.
- Nearly half (49%) of leaders want more coaching from their manager, and 57% want more external coaching. Two-thirds (60%) of frontline leaders say they’ve never had a formal mentor.
- Only 48% of first-level leaders say that employees in their organization work across departments and levels. Most say that people work in siloes. Just about half (54%) say they feel confident that they take action based on input from multiple sources.
Clearly, there are opportunities to better support, nurture, and train leaders, whether they are starting out on their journey or well on their way. As the year ends, take time to assess the needs, concerns, and feelings of your leaders at all levels. Then look for ways to enable training, mentoring, and access to other tools and resources.