Companies Are Failing to Address Leadership Accountability Gap

Despite 72% of business leaders and HR professionals recognizing that leadership accountability is a critical business issue, only 31% are satisfied by the level of accountability they see from the leaders in their organization, according to a new global report published by talent development and transition firm Lee Hecht Harrison.

Leaders in Asia are much more likely to act in the best interests of the whole organization, minimize unhealthy politics, and, like their European counterparts, display a high degree of clarity about external factors and trends.

Asian organizations are also more likely to implement practices that foster diversity and strive for strategic clarity among leaders.

Globally, less than half of leaders (48%) are currently judged to be truly accountable. Many leaders appear committed to driving business results and the technical aspects of their role, although fewer are concerned with crucial aspects of actual leadership such as managing people, inspiring teams, addressing performance issues and building culture.

The research supports these views, with only just over a quarter (27%) of respondents identifying a strong leadership culture at their organization.

Connection between strong leadership accountability and organizational performance

The report highlights a connection between strong leadership accountability and organizational performance, with industry-leading companies outpacing self-identified average and low-performing companies, when it comes to leaders demonstrating accountability behaviors day-to-day, and displaying the organizational practices and cultural attributes that cultivate accountability.

“Accountable leadership is a requirement for building an organization that can thrive and remain agile,” says Vince Molinaro, Ph.D., Global Managing Director, Leadership Transformation Practice, Lee Hecht Harrison. “It's never been more important than in these unprecedented times of change with countless disruptors at play like digital technologies, sweeping demographic changes and chronic political and economic uncertainty. Without accountability, people in leadership roles aren't stepping up in a meaningful way to help their organizations to succeed.”

"It's clear that current investments in leadership development are not creating stronger leaders. As such, the shortage of quality leaders is arguably the biggest talent issue facing organizations today.”

The research points to a failure of organizations in addressing this issue head-on. While 49% of respondents felt that deliberate and explicit expectations had been set for leadership, only a fifth (20%) have the courage to address mediocre and unaccountable leaders.

Peter Alcide, President and Chief Operating Officer, Lee Hecht Harrison, adds: "We invested in this global study in order to uncover the full scale of the leadership accountability gap, which we learned of through previous regional research and anecdotal evidence from our work with clients that represent 60% of Fortune 500 organizations.

“By not proactively dealing with weak leadership, organizations breed further mediocrity, exacerbating the core issue over the longer term. This report is therefore designed to provide organizations with insight and practical advice on upping their game when it comes to leadership development."

According to Vince Molinaro, "It's crucial that organizations are instilling practices that build strong leadership accountability, in order for a culture to develop in which such behaviors flourish. The highest performing companies in our study ensure that their leaders understand what matters to their customers and cascade the business strategy to create clarity of purpose amongst leaders."

The behaviors of an Accountable Leader

  • Develops their leadership capabilities
  • Builds the leadership capabilities of their team
  • Minimizes unhealthy politics
  • Displays a high degree of clarity about external trends in the business environment
  • Acts in the best interests of the whole organization
  • Collaborates with peers to break down silos and align efforts
  • Expresses optimism about the company and its future
  • Effectively communicates the business strategy throughout the organization
  • Tackles tough issues and makes difficult decisions
  • Holds others accountable for high standards of performance


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