Is There a Crisis of Leadership?

Developing Well-Equipped Leaders

By Tom Roth, Michael Leimbach, PhD

“A typical crisis plays out . . .”

Crises are not new to our world, to our countries, or to our organizations. Real-world crises produce rapidly changing conditions and upheavals that leaders need to respond to, recover from, and thrive in for future organizational success.

An unsettling statistic from Gartner’s early 2019 survey reveals that half of organizational leaders say they aren’t well equipped to lead their organizations in the future. Put another way, with the future certain to hold some kind of change or tumult, 50% of leaders feel ill equipped to handle it.

Are we facing a situation in which we have a critical mass of current and next-generation leaders who are not well equipped to lead organizations in the future? If that is true, might the next crisis we face be a crisis of leadership?

This prompts the question:

What qualifies as a leader who is well equipped for an uncertain future?


Deloitte Insights believes that a typical crisis plays out over three time frames: RESPOND, in which a company deals with the present situation and manages continuity; RECOVER, during which a company learns and emerges stronger; and THRIVE, in which the company prepares for and shapes the 'next normal.'

Consciously Competent Leaders

At Wilson Learning, our view of a well-equipped leader is someone who possesses both clarity (the “know how to” of essential leadership skills) and grounding (the “know why” of the skills’ importance and impact). Those well equipped with clarity and grounding are leaders who are Consciously Competent—they are good leaders, and they understand what makes them good leaders.

Conscious competency matrixAs conditions change, consciously competent leaders have the ability to assess the situation and adjust or adapt as needed. This heightened leadership agility and flexibility to respond to change is urgently needed in today’s environment when priorities shift and organizations must pivot to respond and recover.

Unfortunately, most leadership development efforts are geared to develop leaders only to level 3; Unconscious Competence. That is, there is a focus on teaching new leaders the skills necessary for effective leadership (clarity), but not taking that next step to ensure grounding, appreciating the “why” of leadership. As a result, leaders are effective when conditions are normal, but when there are major disruptions or crises, these leaders fail to adapt.

What is needed are new approaches to leadership development that focus on the “what” and the “why” of leadership.

Research shows that organizations have not been prioritizing development of the next generation of leaders. Most organizations have not developed a strong bench strength, are not mentoring or coaching new leaders, and are not using leadership development approaches that meet the expectations of new leaders.

— Michael Leimbach, PhD, VP of Global Research and Development, Wilson Learning Worldwide

Essential Leadership Capabilities

Ultimately, preparing leaders for the uncertain and ever-changing world requires development of both Leadership Character and
Essential Leadership Skills.

Developing Leadership Character

Great execution of leadership skills rings hollow to both the employee and the leader if leadership character development is overlooked.

Recent research shows that high-performing organizations focus their development of leadership character on elements like integrity, empowerment of others, nurturing others’ growth and development, and empathy. These take on even greater importance when leaders are now tasked to thrive in disruption and an uncertain future.

A critical element of leadership development is the degree to which leaders show concern for the growth and fulfillment of their employees, as well as the integrity of their actions and decisions.

— Michael Leimbach, PhD, VP of Global Research and Development, Wilson Learning Worldwide

Vibrant, vital leadership development happens when leaders are consciously competent in leading themselves—they successfully lead others because they effectively execute leadership skills and they fully understand the why.

— Tom Roth, COO, Wilson Learning Worldwide

Tom Roth

Tom Roth是Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc.(美国)的首席运营官和Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc.(日本)的总裁,他拥有40多年的人力绩效提升解决方案开发和实施的经验,负责Wilson Learnin全球集团的战略方向和业务绩效。此外,他还领导全球营销服务和解决方案研发部门,负责所有解决方案和价值主张白皮书的研发。他在员工敬业度、领导力发展、战略调整和业务转型相关领域,为全球的领导团队提供协助。在担任现任职务之前,他曾担任全球研发和解决方案研发部门总裁,也曾担任Wilson Learning Corporation的总裁。

Tom Roth在开发和实施人力绩效提升解决方案领域拥有丰富的经验。他合著了《如何使企业重新找回活力》(英文原文),《创建高性能团队》(英文)的,并在众多商业出版物上发表过文章。他是一位在国内、国际会议和客户活动上活跃的演讲者,涉及内容广泛,其中包括:领导力、员工参与度、变革和战略实施。

Michael Leimbach, PhD

Michael Leimbach, PhD, is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and leadership development. As Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., he has worked with numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Over more than 30 years, Dr. Leimbach had developed Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities, published over 100 professional articles, coauthored four books, been Editor-in-Chief for the highly acclaimed ADHR research journal, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. He also serves on the ISO Technical Committee (TC232) on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers and on the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Dean’s Advisory Board.