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ATD Blog

3 Common Leadership Gaps and How to Bridge Them

Wednesday, June 21, 2023
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Leadership gaps—every organization has them, but few know how to identify and address them properly. A leadership gap occurs when a difference exists between the capabilities an organization or leader needs to succeed and those they already possess. Three of the most common leadership gaps organizations face today include pipeline, strategic, and intercompany gaps.

Pipeline Gaps

As the eldest generation of the workforce retires, companies face growing pipeline gaps. While Baby Boomers are likelier to spend most of their career with one company, younger generations change companies more frequently. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median employee tenure for salaried and wage workers is only 4.1 years. Organizations must re-evaluate succession plans to include more flexibility and prepare the next generation of leaders.

Pipeline gaps may also occur in rapidly growing small- or medium-sized businesses where functional or leadership roles have not yet existed. The company may need to outsource new, experienced leaders, promote from lower levels, and bring both up to speed quickly.

How to address pipeline gaps:
Leadership coaching can help prepare the next generation of leaders by developing essential capabilities needed to fulfill future roles. By equipping targeted groups of emerging leaders with the capabilities they need to ascend into management or executive roles quickly, organizations can maintain their trajectory in meeting or surpassing business outcomes.

Strategic Gaps

Conversely, during a restructuring, strategic gaps can surface within an organization. Mergers, acquisitions, and company-wide workforce reductions require leaders to quickly align teams to work towards strategic goals that are drastically different than before the restructure—but not all leaders have the capabilities needed to do this most effectively and efficiently.

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Strategic gaps can also occur when multiple high-potential employees transition from individual contributors to first-time leaders. While new managers often excel in a frontline role, moving to a leadership position often requires strategic thinking, which may need to be developed.

How to address strategic gaps:
Organizations can jumpstart their capability for strategic thinking by providing one-on-one coaching for individual contributors. For more experienced leaders, coaching can help them process the organizational changes they may face during a restructuring, so they can better lead others through the change management processes needed to grow the organization.

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Intercompany Gaps

When a department lacks the capabilities another functional team has, an organization faces an intercompany gap. Intercompany gaps can lead to disconnected and siloed teams, increased tension between departments, and missed business opportunities.

How to address intercompany gaps:
Group coaching can help break down barriers between cross-functional teams by providing a space for leaders to collaborate. By sharing experiences and perspectives with colleagues they would not typically interact with, leaders are exposed to different mindsets and behaviors while building a greater support network within the organization.

Pipeline, strategic, and intercompany gaps are just a few of the leadership gaps companies face in today’s market. Most organizations have multiple leadership gaps, each with the potential to derail their ability to thrive. Leadership coaching, however, can be a powerful way to bridge these gaps. Coaching is highly contextualized to the individual and organization and can accelerate development for leaders, allowing organizations to bridge leadership gaps faster and with greater impact.

About the Author

Mary Carder is a content writer for Sounding Board, a dynamic leader development suite that combines award-winning technology and people-to-people development to help organizations bridge their leadership gaps..

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