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How to Prepare Next-Generation Leaders to Succeed

As younger generations step into leadership, there are substantial changes looming for them. In our Global Leadership Forecast 2021 research, we examined what differentiates the next generation of leaders who don’t yet have formal leadership responsibility. These employees ranged in age from a base of 21 years to an average of 38 years old.

What Do Next-Generation Leaders Need?

Overall, they told us they need feedback. Leaders at all levels want feedback. But this next generation of leaders is looking for even more. Specifically, 30 percent said they wanted more coaching and feedback from their managers than they are currently getting. This is in comparison to only 25 percent of current leaders.

Surprisingly, they also say they need to up their emotional intelligence (EQ). Recognizing a greater need for developing empathy, they want to grow their communication and interaction skills.

Additionally, they see diversity and inclusion as a requirement and are striving to improve it in their organizations. Only 56 percent of next-generation leaders said their leaders challenge themselves and others to recognize and eliminate biases, compared to 67 percent of current leaders.

Also, flexibility is key. Their organizations are doing well with flexible work practices. An equal percentage of these next-generation leaders (72 percent) and current leaders said that flexible arrangements are common and supported.

Finally, they crave clarity. Compared to current leaders, this group struggles to act decisively without clear direction. They are unsure how to apply data to decision making. In addition, they worry about reacting to change, both internally and externally, with customers.

What Will Be Expected From the Next Generation of Leaders?

Older millennials and younger Gen Xers lead the Great Resignation. These people between mid-thirties and mid-forties are in a prime position to step into leadership roles, so this is a big risk for companies.

Our latest research from Global Leadership Forecast 2021 found that one of CEOs’ top concerns is developing next-generation talent. But CEOs also rate their organization’s lower-level leader quality more harshly than other leaders. Only one in three CEOs says their organization’s frontline leadership quality is very good or excellent.

So there are clear and urgent leadership gaps to close to prepare for the future. The next generation of leaders will have to manage highly diverse teams and continue to build an inclusive environment.

More than ever, leading through inspiration and sharing the whys for performing tasks will be a high expectation from employees and the business. Leaders demonstrating through their actions and behaviors—rather than simply claiming the values that are important to them and the organization—will play an important role in retaining the next generation of leaders.

Learn what leadership skills will be needed in the future and more tips for preparing the next generation of leaders in DDI’s blog.

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