The Leadership Gap

Posted by Steve Whittington on Jul 20, 2016 1:46:15 PM

In a recent podcast called Meeting the Leadership Transition Challenge, my guest Jane Halford of Bolt Transition indicated that 40% of all leadership transitions fail within the first 18 months. While this is shocking in and of itself, there are even more alarming numbers in the workforce composition.

The vast majority of our senior leaders are in the boomer generation aged 50- 69. This group represents 27% of the Canadian population and 31% of Canada’s workforce (as of 2015).  The tipping point where the boomers are the biggest generation in the workplace has come and gone. That's not surprising when you consider that 250,000 boomers retire annually currently and that rate is set to grow to 400,000 annually in a few years.

Now, millennials are the biggest generation in the workforce at 36%, with Gen X following at 33%. At first when you take these numbers and stack them up, things look to be flowing in the right direction. "What’s the problem?" you might ask. Leadership will transfer nicely.


Millennials                          36%

Gen X                                  33%

Boomers                              31 %


However, if you turn back the clock to as little as seven years ago you'll see these numbers:


Boomers                              37%

Gen X                                    36%

Millennials                          27%


Steve Whittington speaking on The Leadership GapThere has basically been a 10 point swing in seven years and this is accelerating with boomers retiring at an increasing rate. So one could assume that 10% of the senior leadership has retired in the last seven years. If only the truth was that pretty. The fact is that as of 2011, 60% of small to medium businesses were owned by individuals aged 50 or older.  Going back seven years from this date to 2004, this percentage of “aged” business owners represented a 16% jump.  With these two data points in hand one can assume 10% of the leadership retiring might be a little low.

The facts are daunting. Added to this are different generational work expectations and challenges, lack of experience in those generations (due to 60% of the current SME business owners being boomers) and the first stat (a whopping 40% failure rate in leadership transition). Not only are we facing a potential shortage of qualified leaders, for those that are able to transition almost half fail.

There is hope. In a recent press release from The Conference Board of Canada's latest report on Leadership Outlook in Canada the following has been identified:

  • Developing top talent and building leadership capacity have become strategic priorities for Canadian organizations given the gaps.
  • 37 per cent of survey respondents said their organizational leaders were highly effective compared to 29 per cent of respondents in 2001.
  • 31 per cent felt their organizations were highly effective at building leadership capacity, up slightly from the 2001 survey at 26 per cent.
  • Only 14 per cent of respondents said their organization’s leadership capacity to implement major change was excellent.

We are doing better and we need to continue to improve. But for the other 63% of organizational leaders that are not highly effective, staff are starting to react. Employees are no longer tolerating poor leadership. Research suggests that 50% of people leave due to a bad boss.

Leadership development is needed to help all sectors of society. With better leadership we all rise. The expectation and need is for transparent, inclusive leaders that serve their people with humility.

We need people to step forward to fill the gap. Are you or are you willing to be a leader we need and deserve? I hope so, we need you.

Topics: bolt transition, business leadership, Leadership, Leadership gap, leadership transition, Leadership Series, Blogs

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