Biennial Survey of Leading Corporations Reveals the Most Important Capability Needed in Leaders

New report says the ability to create a vision— and convey it to others—is now the single most important capability needed in the emerging generation of leaders.

(Oklahoma City, OK) — For today’s executives, the ability to develop a successful business strategy is no longer enough. In our complex business environment, the most successful organizations will be the ones with leaders who can create a compelling vision—and who can convey that vision to customers and employees. These skills have, for the first time in recent years, surpassed critical thinking in importance, but there is a problem, says Bonnie Hagemann, CEO of Executive Development Associates.

This new reality was reflected in the key findings of “2014 Trends in Executive Development: A Benchmark Report.” A wide range of executives and human resource leaders, including presidents, senior vice presidents, chief learning officers, and heads of executive and leadership development, reported that the ability to create a vision— and convey it to others—is now the single most important capability needed in the emerging generation of leaders.

The “2014 Trends in Executive Development: A Benchmark Report” is the product of collaboration between Pearson TalentLens and Executive Development Associates Inc. (EDA), a global leadership consulting firm that specializes in executive assessment, development, and coaching.

Leaders from some of the world’s best known large and medium-sized organizations across the globe participated in the biennial survey, which has been conducted by EDA every two years to four years since 1983 in order to follow the trends, growth and evolution of executive development in corporate environments. The complete report can be purchased at

“The HR leaders in the study reported that the ability to create a vision is the one most lacking in the next generation of leadership talent, followed by the lack of critical-thinking skills. Clearly, they are worried about the ability of the new generation to step up into top positions,” says Hagemann.

She notes that once leaders create a vision and have used their critical-thinking skills to develop the appropriate business strategy, they must bring others into the program.

“This requires the ability to convey the vision to others—to get employees and customers just as excited about the new direction and opportunities. And it requires the ability to engage employees at all levels in the underlying business strategy. Vision without strategy will not get far. And neither will move forward without engagement,” says Hagemann.

The report indicates that there are several reasons why creating a vision and conveying it to others has surpassed critical thinking as the capability most critical to success and yet most lacking in the next generation of leadership talent.

“During the recession, companies needed to focus on cutting costs and increasing revenue in an increasingly competitive global business environment. As the economy improves, companies are focusing less on cutting costs and more on expanding production and opening new markets, products and services, all of which require an inspired and engaged workforce,” says Hagemann.

And there may be another disconnect, according to the report. While the HR leaders in the study said their top priority in the next two to three years is developing capabilities needed to achieve vision and execute strategy, they still tend to focus developmental efforts in other areas.

“The two developmental activities their next generation of leaders are most likely to participate in, they said, are developmental job assignments and action learning. However, those types of activities alone are rarely enough to give emerging leaders the ability to create and carry out a larger vision,” says Hagemann.

While these types of development paths can be very valuable, they do not focus specifically on teaching leaders how to create a vision and engage others around it. Developing such capabilities requires a thoughtful, purposeful approach—one that sets out agreed-upon goals and strategies. Several techniques have proved to be effective, particularly when used in combination. Among them:

Coaching and Mentoring. Every organization has current and retired leaders who over the course of their careers have articulated a strong vision—and seem to have an exceptional ability to convey it to others. Such leaders should be recruited to be coaches and mentors to both the current and the upcoming generation of leaders who need to develop in this area.

Training. Executive training programs should be expanded to specifically include inspiring and engaging others. These capabilities can be built into business scenarios and simulations. Another proven approach is storytelling, followed by practice.

Tapping the Vision of Gen Y. Creating a vision means looking ahead to the ideas that will capture the imagination of new generations of employees and customers. Companies already have a powerful and available thought partner in their Generation Y employees. These workers can provide valuable insight into the kind of products they and their peers would like to buy as well
as the kinds of organizations they want to work for.

Changing the Culture. The importance of developing vision and engaging others around it must be made part of the corporate culture.

As in past Trend Reports, the lack of bench strength continues to be the single most influential factor on executive development. With the end of the recession, many baby boomers who delayed retirement are now leaving, fulfilling long-standing predictions of an alarmingly limited flow in the executive pipeline. Many current executives acknowledge they have not yet prepared their successors, often because it is difficult to find candidates with expertise in the necessary specialties.

In addition to Hagemann, the report authors include John Mattone, Senior Talent Management Consultant and Master Executive Coach with Executive Development Associates, and John Maketa, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Pearson .

About EDA
Executive Development Associates is a leader in creating custom-designed executive development strategies, systems and programs that help organizations build the capabilities needed to achieve their strategic objectives. EDA leads the way in the use of executive development to help organizations successfully address their marketplace challenges and accelerate the execution of their business strategy. With their proven ability to achieve results, they create measurable improvements in both individual executive performance and business outcomes. For more information about executive, leadership and high-potential development, visit

About Pearson TalentLens
Pearson TalentLens publishes scientific assessments that are used globally to hire and develop the 21st century workforce. Our instruments measure critical thinking, problem solving, and a range of job skills to deliver data-driven insights that inform and clarify an organization’s human capital decisions. Learn more at

Press interviews or copy of the report, contact Bonnie Hagemann • CEO, Executive Development Associates, Direct: +1 816 830 6001; Toll Free: +1 866 EXEC DEV, ext. 201; or

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