A while back I met with the head of human resources (HR) for a financial services company. As we sat down to start our discussion, I could tell she was frustrated. She began by saying, “I thought we did all the right things when it came to developing our leaders.” She explained that her organization had identified its high-potential leaders and created a development program for them. “We then gave them all promotions, with fancy titles and increased compensation. And now we are waiting—waiting for them to lead,” she said.
I asked her to explain further what she meant by “waiting.”
“They aren't leading,” she said. “They are waiting for permission and direction from the executive team on every issue. Or they're acting like bystanders, watching problems persist or projects derail.” She then shared what I thought was her most important insight: “It's like they don't know what it means to be a leader!”
Over the last few years, my team and I have been hearing more and more of this kind of lament from senior executives in all industries. It seems that despite all the investment in leadership development, there is a gap between what we expect of our leaders and how they are performing. As I shared in the introductory chapter, I call this the leadership accountability gap.
And since publishing the first edition of this book, it has been surprising to me to see how the ideas have struck a chord with leaders from the C-suite to the front line, ...