It happens time and time again: a high-potential employee is promoted into a first-time leadership role and they struggle. 

Which begs the question: who’s at fault? 

Not isolated to a single company, industry, or region, research shows that rising stars transition into leadership roles far before they receive any development or training for the role. Instead, these high-potentials are promoted to higher ranking positions because of two things, according to Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report: they were successful in non-managerial roles and/or because of their tenure with the company. From a leadership standpoint, this is highly problematic. 

The popular method of promoting high-potential candidates goes something like this:

An employee is doing well in their technical role. They have proven they are better at performing technical tasks compared to their peers. Because of their technical capabilities, leadership decides to promote that high-potential employee into a leadership position, rationale being “they were good at performing their technical duties, therefore they are the most fit to lead others in that area, as well.” While this may be true to some degree, technical skills are not leadership skills. 

Organizations worldwide are missing the mark when it comes to proactively developing their next-generation leaders. Employees are being propelled into positions in which they are not ready. They do not have the “reps” or leadership capacity necessary to be effective in these roles. 

The research below examines just how big of a gap there is when it comes to developing the next generation of leaders. As you will read, organizations are really missing the mark. 

From Grovo’s “Good Manager, Bad Manager”

44 percent of managers felt unprepared for their role. Additionally, 87 percent wished they’d had more training before becoming a manager.

98% of middle managers feel managers at their company need more training in areas like professional development, conflict resolution, employee turnover, time management, and project management. 

Management isn’t like riding a bike, where you learn it once and you’re set for life. It’s more of an art, requiring constant learning and practice to master. Even the most experienced manager can benefit from regular training that reinforces the fundamentals, course corrects bad habits, and delivers fresh ideas about the craft. But 61% of managers say their company provides training only a few times a year, with 11% saying only once a year. This isn’t frequent enough for an organization to build a consistent habit of learning among its leaders.

From Center for Creative Leadership’s “How to Set Your First-Time Leaders Up for Success”

Almost 60% said they never received any training when they transitioned into their first leadership role.

26% of first-time managers felt they were not ready to lead others to begin with.

From HBR’s “We Wait Too Long to Train Our Leaders”

…some 17,000 worldwide leaders participating in our training program, who hailed from companies in virtually every sector throughout the world, I found that their average age was 42. More than half were between 36 and 49. Less than 10% were under 30; less than 5% were under 27. But the average age of supervisors in these firms was 33. In fact the typical individual in these companies became a supervisor around age 30 and remained in that role for nine years — that is, until age 39. It follows then, that if they’re not entering leadership training programs until they’re 42, they are getting no leadership training at all as supervisors. And they’re operating within the company untrained, on average, for over a decade.

Next-generation leaders need repetition to build proper muscle-memory habits, and knowledge transfer from their predecessors to fast-forward wisdom and gain experience. They also need to understand the people side of things in order to be the best leaders they can be. 

Avoiding or delaying the development of your leaders is hurting your organization. The skills needed to be an effective leader in today’s 21st-century workforce take time to develop.

Why wait any longer to start developing these folks? 

Leaders must be taught how to lead. The time is now.