Each year, recruiting giant Russell Reynolds surveys some 1,500 CEOs, C-Level leaders, next-gen leaders, and non-executive board directors for its Global Leadership Monitor report. Last week the firm released the 2022 Global Leadership Monitor, both identifying the top 20 threats to organizational health and assessing leadership's preparedness to deal with these issues. After reading this year's edition, I took a few moments to revisit their 2021 report. See, the more I read parts of the 2022 report, the more I had a sort of deja vu feeling that took me back to the famous line from Bill Clinton policy advisor, James Carville, in the run-up to the 1992 Presidential election when he said, "It's the economy stupid." But after reading two years of Global Leadership Monitor reports, I found myself substituting people for economy in a no less forceful admonition: it's the people stupid.
One year ago, availability of key talent/skills was identified by Russell Reynolds as the #2 issue facing global leaders. About talent in the 2021 Monitor report, they said, "To avoid risk to business strategy, organizations need to ensure their leaders have the capability and the requisite support to attract, engage and retain great talent." They went on to say that, "the talent factor was the one fewest felt prepared to face." So, last year, business leaders identified the talent gap as a top-two critical issue and one that they were ill-equipped to deal with. Ostensibly, finding a way to deal with one's number-two threat would become at least one's number-two priority, yielding hopes that in a year, some progress might be made in one's level of preparedness for dealing with said threat. So, how'd they do?
This year's report highlighted 3 big stories that included the "Talent Crunch," which 72% of respondents now called the biggest issue facing their organization. That's up more than a dozen points from a year ago and more than ten points ahead of the next closest threat - economic uncertainty, last year's #1 threat. Again, now - a year after recognizing a lack of preparedness to deal with the issue and more than a year into the mass exodus known as the "Great Resignation" - Russell Reynolds says that, "59% of leadership teams who cited the availability of talent and skills as a top threat are not prepared to face (the) threat." Why? How is it possible that leaders seem even less prepared today to face a threat they knew very well about a year ago and watched worsen right before their very eyes, month in and month out? The 2022 Global Leadership Monitor seems to shed some insights. But in short: it's because other things mattered more to the people who could have fixed it.
See, when asked what factors were required to get them to stay in a role or more accurately caused them to switch roles, next gen leaders surveyed by Russell Reynolds - those principally responsible for the care and feeding of front-line associates - their own advancement and their own compensation were number one and number two on the list. Things like a different (and ostensibly better) kind of leadership or a more aligned mission or purpose did not even make the top 5. What next gen leaders are most focused on are things that make their lives better, NOT things that make the lives of other people better. What's more, despite some positive movement this year, global leaders, polled by Russell Reynolds, still prioritize customers over employees as a stakeholder group that will most impact organizational strategy over the next five years. So, it's not hard to fathom why no progress was made year over year in regard to closing the talent gap. When the person in the mirror and one's own customers count for more than one's employees, the employees don't stand a chance.
In the 13-month period beginning last April, more than 55 million workers have left what many would have you believe are perfectly good jobs. These departures are not slowing down, let alone stopping. They are occurring, in large part, exactly because tomorrow's C-Suite occupants, today's next-gen leaders care more for themselves than they do for those they are leading. If you are running a business today and want to put an end to the flow of good people walking out the door, put an end to the flow of bad leaders walking into it.
For those you do entrust with the leadership of other human beings simply remind them, as Kimberly Archer of Russell Reynolds says, "It's not about you, it's about everyone else." Because when they begin to fully grasp and understand that, they'll have found the bridge across the talent gap.