A Forbes Report Prepared by Forbes Coaches Council. To read the full article on Forbes.com, click here.
At McDermott + Bull Interim Leaders, we help clients deal with the unexpected departure of key executives every day. This can be an incredibly disruptive circumstance, and bringing on interim executives is an effective strategy for companies to bridge the gap until they hire a new permanent leader.
So, what are the most common leadership gaps companies face? In this article, Forbes dives into 17 leadership gaps, how to recognize them, and what companies can do to address them. Not every leadership gap is an open role!
If you need a sounding board on human capital topics, such as leadership, succession planning, retention, or compensation, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Here’s what 17 leadership gap might look like and tips on how to identify them and fill those gaps to ensure the organization’s continued success.
A Forbes Report:
#1 NOBODY TAKING OWNERSHIP OF EXISTING SITUATIONS
When situations exist in a company, and nobody takes full ownership and responsibility for those situations, I’d say there’s a leadership gap. Consider the following: Do people step up in a crisis? Does anyone take the blame and the responsibility to fix issues, or is blame being thrown around? Is there anyone you can assign tasks to and be confident that they would deliver? – Nnamdi Ibe, Excel and Grace Consulting
#2 AN EXPECTATION OF SOMETHING HAPPENING THAT ISN’T
Gaps, of any sort, exist when there’s an expectation of something happening that isn’t. With that in mind, companies must first clearly define their leadership expectations before identifying the gaps. They can do so by simply answering the question, “How do we behave?” If your behaviors do not align with your expectations, then a gap exists. If you change the behavior, you close the gap. – Kelly Weber, The Wander Project
#3 INADEQUATELY PREPARED EMERGING LEADERS
A leadership gap occurs in a corporation where current and emerging leaders are not adequately equipped for the future. One way to identify leadership gaps is to partner with a local university or two to evaluate the preparedness of your leadership team and your pipeline. I have seen this, and it can be humbling at first, but also empowering to your development process for leaders. – Brent McHugh, Christar International
#4 DISAPPOINTING PERFORMANCE FROM SEVERAL LEADERS
Leadership gaps whisper rather than roar. It can be tempting to blame a “bad” boss, “problem” people, or even an isolated event, when the actual problem is a pervasive leadership gap. Spot them by watching for subtle patterns, and expect them in a fast-changing world. Disappointing performance from more than a couple of leaders is likely a leadership gap. Support—not scolding—is the solution. – April Armstrong, AHA Insight
#5 A BIAS TOWARD MANAGING INSTEAD OF LEADING
A leadership gap forms when there is a bias toward managing things rather than leading and developing people. Poorly managed companies tend to fail quickly, while poor leadership causes companies to struggle and, generally, fail eventually. The “tell” is when you see managers focused on managing people rather than leading them, which leads to frustration, mediocrity and dysfunction. – Philip Liebman, ALPS Leadership
#6 UNCLEAR RESPONSIBILITIES AND PEOPLE OPERATING IN SILOS
When people are unsure of the vision, mission, values, roles and responsibilities and/or the decision-making process, there is a leadership gap. A lack of communication creates misunderstandings, mistakes, frustration and confusion. People execute in silos, and little to no personal growth or development occurs. Clarify the real job to be done (including the above), and hire, promote and performance-manage to the actual role. – Susanne Biro, Susanne Biro & Associates Coaching Inc.
Leadership gaps emerge when current leadership competencies do not achieve desired outcomes.
#7 DESIRED OUTCOMES NOT BEING ACHIEVED
Leadership gaps emerge when current leadership competencies do not achieve desired outcomes. However, the answer often lies not solely with the individual leaders, but also with systemic issues in the organization and its culture. Look for areas where goals are not being met, and rather than solely looking at leadership, be sure to assess the entirety of processes to truly uncover the solution. – Tonya Echols, Vigere
#8 INSUFFICIENT TRUST, ROLE CLARITY AND/OR CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
When it comes to workplace dynamics, I have found that leadership gaps arise from weakness in one or more of three areas (I call this the three-legged stool of leadership): trust, role clarity and conflict management. The gaps are identified by the team’s behavior. Low accountability, silos, unwanted turnover, frequent complaints and poor teamwork are some of the key warning signs of these gaps. – Candice Gottlieb-Clark, Dynamic Team Solutions
#9 AN INABILITY TO EXECUTE ON THE BUSINESS STRATEGY
A leadership gap exists when an organization’s leadership lacks the capabilities to execute on the business strategy, either today or in the future. It is all anchored on the business strategy. As that evolves and changes, leadership requirements must adjust accordingly. That means updating competency models and assessing and developing against them on a regular basis. Once is not enough. – Kathy Bernhard, KFB Leadership Solutions
#10 LEADERS WHO LACK SELF-AWARENESS AND ADAPTABILITY
Leaders today must embrace complexity. If they deny it, run from it or try to reuse outdated playbooks, their organization faces a leadership gap. To develop leaders, organizations need to assess individuals to ensure they can increase their self-awareness and capacity to adapt, view situations from multiple perspectives, think systemically, collaborate with others and develop novel strategies. – Liz Guthridge, Connect Consulting Group
#11 DRAMA, DISCORD, DISENGAGEMENT, AND INEFFICIENCY
Assess sales, employee happiness, customer retention and profit metrics. If these need work, start at the top. Drama, discord, disengagement, inefficiency or leadership working in silos highlights skills, process or communication gaps, and those inefficiencies cost hugely. Identify and plug skills gaps and explore armored leadership, trust and vulnerability with leadership coaching and development. – Andrea Callanan, Andrea Callanan
#12 UNHAPPY CUSTOMERS
In an era where customer experience is key to business performance, start by looking at customer feedback through direct messages, social media platforms or influencer blogs. When customers are not happy, there is usually a leadership gap where processes are failing or the employee experience is not great, which then impacts the service delivery to customers. Keep an ear to the ground and listen up! – Kevin Kan, Break Out Consulting Asia
#13 NO SUCCESSION PLAN IN PLACE
Test the idea of a disaster. Imagine that half of the senior leaders are on a plane, and it crashes. The company receives the bad news. How would you deal with it? Are there outstanding employees who would be ready to take on a leadership role? Would they know how to carry on and manage the business? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then there is a leadership gap with no succession plan. – Csaba Toth, ICQ Global
#14 LEADERS DOING THEIR TEAMS’ WORK
One of the leadership gaps found in organizations is when leaders are jumping in to do the work of their team members, rather than setting the bigger-picture goals and creating the structures that support their team members to achieve the goals. Companies can identify this gap when leaders are overwhelmed because they have too much to do—for example, they are focusing on doing rather than managing the work. – Katie Anderson, Katie Anderson Consulting
A leadership gap in a company can manifest as a lack of direction, failure to adapt to new market conditions, poor decision-making, disengaged employees or a decline in overall performance.
#15 FAILURE TO ADAPT TO NEW MARKET CONDITIONS
A leadership gap in a company can manifest as a lack of direction, failure to adapt to new market conditions, poor decision-making, disengaged employees or a decline in overall performance. You can identify these gaps by assessing your team’s performance, gathering feedback from stakeholders and benchmarking against successful organizations to get insights into best practices and areas for growth. – Lital Marom, LITAL MAROM
#16 AN OUTSIZED IMPACT FROM ONE PERSON’S ABSENCE
Leadership gaps show up when the absence of one person, or any one resource, has a disproportionate impact on the business. This indicates a failure to establish standards, set expectations or even cross-train critical functions. Great leaders set the stage for performance and results even when conditions aren’t ideal. – Jim Vaselopulos, Rafti Advisors, LLC
#17 FAILURE TO MOTIVATE OR ENGAGE EMPLOYEES
A leadership gap in a company can manifest as a failure to motivate or engage employees. This may cause low employee morale, higher turnover rates and a lack of innovation and creativity. The key to identifying and addressing leadership gaps is to be proactive and committed to ongoing improvement and development. – Paula Vidal Castelli, Paula Vidal Castelli Intl., LLC