Companies are experiencing a critical leadership skills gap. It is so serious that according to one recent study, only 18 percent of HR professionals rate their leadership bench strength as strong or very strong. Not much better (19 percent) was their confidence in their leadership development program.
It seems that the identification and selection of frontline leadership is left more to chance than a plan. The success rate for filling frontline positions is only a little better than 60 percent when promoting internally. The success rate sits at just over 50 percent for external hires. But since internal candidates are a known quantity to organizations, you would expect the success rate to be much higher than chances of flipping a coin.
As a result, employees who are not ready are being promoted or hired into front line leader positions. Recruiting programs are not getting to the right people. Development programs are not preparing up-and-coming managers quickly enough or addressing the right skill gaps.
The most common reason that frontline leaders fails is lack of interpersonal skills. These are basic skills such as effective communication, listening, empathizing, and involving others, and they ensure that leaders build strong relationships with their team, and get work done.
It is very telling that no other reason was even close to interpersonal skills as a cause for failure in frontline leaders. You cannot coach without being able to listen or maintain someone’s self-esteem. You also cannot build a team’s trust without the ability to appropriately share thoughts, feelings, and the rationale behind decisions.
According to DDI in their The State of Frontline Leadership white paper, the most common reasons frontline leaders fail:
Lack of interpersonal skills… 56%
Lack of strategic skills… 33%
Lack of trust building… 21%
Lack of training… 21%
Lack of mentorship… 20%
Poor decision making… 17%
Inability to execute objectives… 15%
Inability to build partnerships… 15%
Managing former colleagues… 12%
Lack of innovation… 8%
Lack of technical skills… 8%
Managing multiple generations… 7%
Managing associates their same age or older… 4%