This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

June 1, 2005

The Secondary Talent Problem

In our rapidly changing world, the most successful employers will be those who can find, recruit, engage, and support, and retain the needed top talent. Senior executives are competitively hunting for people who can think creatively, take initiative, and eagerly accept accountability for results. The hunt is not going well.

In a recent survey of recruiters, both in-house and independent professionals, we discovered that it has become much more difficult to find people who have the background, skills, and experience to perform as high achievers. Employers we interview admit privately that they are limping along with an insufficient team of leaders at the senior and middle management levels.

What is missing? The shortage seems to be in highly competent leaders who inspire people to follow them into bold ventures that differentiate the companies from their competition. This elusive quality is what we might describe as an "entrepreneurial spirit." This perspective, and the courage that goes with it, has not been taught by enough schools, including highly touted business schools. Employers, more concerned with fiscal conservatism than risky new ventures, have certainly promoted this drive.

The lack of brave, inspired, calculated risk-takers in leadership roles depresses stimulation and development of followers with similar traits.

Without an energized resource of future entrepreneurial leaders, employers will be dangerously limited in their potential in the years ahead.

While more people are being educated and trained to lead and manage with an entrepreneurial mindset---even at our business schools, competition for their talent will be fierce. To attract them, employers will have to offer substantial cash and equity incentives.

OK, this shortage of top talent has been discussed over and over again. What’s our point? Simply this: The lack of inspirational, role-playing, mentoring senior talent will influence the supply of the generation of future leaders who will follow them. We describe this generation to come as "secondary leaders," since they will succeed the primary leaders in place today.

Tomorrow’s leaders are not being trained and educated to prepare them for their vital role tomorrow’s increasingly dynamic world. How will we deal with this leadership gap?

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