5 Capabilities Every Leader Should Have

Less than half of organizations (47%) say their top leadership agrees on the critical attributes and competencies of great leaders and how to best develop them, according to Brandon Hall Group’s study, Great Leaders: How Do We Develop More?

The lack of agreement on the key behaviors valued in a great leader is a prescription for disaster for employers who need more leaders to drive business outcomes. How can you identify high-potential leaders or develop current ones if you can’t agree on the behaviors they must exhibit?

On top of that, Brandon Hall Group research shows that leaders struggle to find time to learn, reflect and make themselves a priority.

Employers’ Top Challenges in Developing Leaders’ Skills, Knowledge

In many organizations, the top attributes for great leaders are a source of debate, and even if there is agreement, little or no time is allocated for leaders to improve themselves.

About one-third (32%) of organizations believe they are effective in developing great leaders who can drive business growth, according to the latest Brandon Hall Group research.

Leaders are given considerable responsibilities for managing talent and are often accountable for turnover and operational problems. But most organizations do not believe leaders can help drive better business results over the next one to two years, according to Brandon Hall Group research.

Leader development has been a challenge for years. The pandemic and resulting disruptions make it even more complex as organizations continue to transition to virtual and more personalized learning. The key, according to the research, is to move away from event-driven learning to a more personalized, contextualized approach.

5 Most Important Strategies to Improve Leader Training

• Can your organization work with one model and create variances for proficiency at different leader levels? If not, why do you need multiple models?

• How can you redesign leader learning to make it more contextualized and personalized to drive behavior change?

Based on our 2021 quantitative leader development studies and scores of interviews, here are five recommendations for leader competencies and attributes to focus on:

Managing Change This has long been a competency that rates high in importance and low on effectiveness. One reason training to manage change has been ineffective is that it mostly occurs in a classroom and focuses on principles. A foundation is fine, but the only way to help leaders excel in a VUCA environment is to put them there. Therefore, scenario-based training and simulations are the most effective ways to help leaders operate effectively in a constant state of uncertainty.

Strategic Thinking Leading in an environment of volatility requires anticipation rather than reaction. Leaders must be strategic, even if that strategy may be short-lived before adapting to another strategy. Employees need a purpose, even if it is short-term and they rely on leaders to set that purpose. Strategic thinking also is best taught by doing — putting leaders in situations where they must create, communicate and execute on a strategy as events swirl around them.

Coaching Our readers are probably tired of us stressing coaching whenever leadership comes up. But coaching, which involves helping team members think critically about what they do and how they act by asking questions, is really the only way one can develop employees in an environment of constant change. Feedback — positive and constructive — is important, too, but feedback without coaching can feel too much like top-down management when collaboration and agility are most needed.

Emotional Intelligence EQ, by definition, is recognizing, understanding and managing your emotions while recognizing, understanding and influencing the emotions of others. That is really what leadership is all about.

When we ask about emotional intelligence in research studies, its importance is rated fairly low. But many of the traits and behaviors included in emotional intelligence, such as self-awareness, empathy andsocial skills, usually rank high. There is some misunderstanding of what emotional intelligence really is. In practical terms, it means being aware that emotions can drive behavior and impact people. Managing emotions helps us execute many of the tactical aspects of leadership, including:

  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Meeting tight deadlines
  • Dealing with challenging relationships
  • Not having enough resources
  • Navigating change
  • Working through setbacks and failure

Team Mindset Brandon Hall Group research shows that at least half of work is accomplished through teams in 77% of organizations. And seven in 10 organizations say work done in teams will increase significantly in the next one to two years. Therefore, team leadership is critical. This requires a “we are better together” mindset and the ability to be a facilitator and collaborator who can identify the right mix of talent to create high-performing teams for a wide variety of purposes. That’s a lot and requires all the capabilities listed above.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.