Several interesting studies were released this week that, once again, draw attention to the impact leadership effectiveness has not only on companies, but our nation as well. The Global Competitiveness Report, issued by the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has identified the fact that the United States has dropped two places in comparative, national competitiveness. The U.S. now ranks 7th in this listing.
Another report, released this week by the Society for Human Resource Management, identified the fact that only 29% of employees are “very satisfied” with their jobs. The remaining 71% of employees surveyed stated they were either “somewhat satisfied” or “dissatisfied” with their work. This provides the third point of triangulation in what is an eerily consistent picture. These figures are nearly identical to studies previously issued by The Gallup Company and the Chartered Management Institute in the U.K. on employee disengagement levels.
Now, let’s correlate these consistent trends with the current state of leadership. Just a little over a year ago, The McKinsey Quarterly conducted a massive study on leadership competencies of “C” level and one-step down executives and discovered that only 1% were ranked excellent in five of eight key leadership competencies. Ten percent scored average and the remaining majority of 89% scored below average. Coincidental or causal? From my 24 years of business experience, much of it as an executive surrounded by that 89%, I’m going with causal.
Just as the Olympics were coming to a close, the USA Today had two front page stories, side-by-side. One was entitled, “Sweet Victory”, and it gave the medal count that showed we’d just outpaced China’s medal count my a nose. Right next to this story was one entitled, “Companies’ Training Cuts Add To Job Woes”. The reported identified 38% of companies provide cross-training for their employees today, down from 43% in 2011 and 55% in 2008. These figures are also from the Society for Human Resource Management. The consulting firm Accenture was also quoted in the article, stating that their research reveals only one out of five workers have cultivated new skills through employer provided training over the past five years. This is in contrast to an average of two and a half weeks per year of employer provided training for their associates in the 1970s.
Why were our Olympic athletes successful? I’d have to guess they were engaged in a rather rigorous training schedule! So as sweet as this year’s victories may have been, we best brace ourselves for some bitter losses in the future as we continue to compete with China in the global economy. China is churning out engineers, mathematicians and scientists at unprecedented levels. They’ve set up Special Economic Zones and have created a litany of support, in terms of financing and infrastructure, for entrepreneurial companies. In the past ten years, China has built 170 new airports and invested in high-speed rail. In the same time frame, the U.S. has upgraded 7 airports and initiatives for light rail, never mind high-speed rail, have been dismissed in community after community, even when the Federal government offered to foot the bill under the stimulus package.
As leaders, we have a decision to make. To authentically lead or continue what can only be described as a slash and burn approach to business-as-usual. One thing’s for sure, this approach is unsustainable and we are slipping rapidly on the global stage. History has identified our grandparents as The Greatest Generation. If we don’t embrace a shift in perspective soon, I dread to think how history will remember our generation.
© 2012, Terry Murray.