leadership development: solving australia’s leadership woes

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A Dire Situation

Though Australia has enjoyed steady economic growth over the last 25 years, that growth is now beginning to slow significantly and attention has turned to Australia’s business leadership, highlighting significant challenges.

A recent study by Aon Hewitt found that senior leadership over any other factor has the biggest impact on creating a high performance work culture, but 40% of survey respondents believe their leaders lack the skill to build and sustain a healthy corporate culture. The challenges with leadership in Australia are numerous. Not only are many leaders under qualified, but those in senior leadership are ageing. Along with very little ethnic and cultural diversity within Australia’s business leadership, there is a large gender representation gap. Many of these factors pose threats to the future of business in Australia, for without a solid base of leadership, businesses will not thrive. In a recent study, the Survey of Australian Leadership (SAL) delved more deeply into the afore mentioned areas of concern regarding leadership in Australia. Here are some stifling statistics directly from that study:  

Currently, one in four leaders has no qualification beyond secondary school.

While it is possible for leaders to have success without much education, it is much more difficult. Often, individuals fall into leadership positions and find they lack the skills and education to succeed. They have often failed to gain the valuable leadership development that comes through the rigors of education.

Over half of senior leaders in multi-site organisations are aged 55 years or over.

As senior leadership continues ageing, it is becoming increasingly more important for younger leadership candidates to be well-prepared to fill the shoes of leaders who will soon retire. Leadership development is becoming increasingly more critical

Around three-quarters of Australian leaders are born in Australia, and most of those born elsewhere are from English-speaking backgrounds.

Having business leadership from a variety of cultures and backgrounds creates a strong and diverse economy. Different perspectives and work styles serve to add variety and texture. Diversity leads to greater innovation and creativity and often higher productivity.   

In multi-site organisations, more than three-quarters (82%) of senior leaders are men.

Women can add a unique perspective to the work force. The gender representation gap can only hinder organisations from possible growth that comes from the talents and abilities that women present.

Leadership Development: The Current Picture

It’s possible that many of the current issues with leadership in Australia stem from poor leadership training. The SAL study found that “around one in seven workplaces in multi-site organisations do not provide any leadership development arrangements.” But the study also found that leadership development has a positive relationship with leadership effectiveness and an indirect relationship with workplace performance and innovation. So why don’t more organisations have effective management training and leadership development programs? Possibly because they don’t understand the benefits, or maybe they don’t know how to focus a leadership development program.

The Solution: What Makes a Good Leadership Development Program

In order to understand how to form a successful leadership development program, it’s first important to understand why some programs fail. Let us provide some insight.


4 Reasons Leadership Development Fails

  • They focus on training and not developing
    • Great leaders learn from experience, mentorship, and coaching.
    • Great leadership programs focus on supporting a leader’s success with effective onboarding, tools, and ongoing check-ins and coaching.
    • Make sure you’re not simply training on skill set and product knowledge, but rather helping develop employees to progress to the next level.
  • The training is made into a one time event
    • Leadership development should be a continuous process.
    • Companies should take the time to develop plans to integrate leadership development into everyday tasks and find ways to create sustainable and engaging learning activities over time.
  • They promote opportunities to a select few
    • Organisations that promote a high trust, transparent environment are better suited to help employees develop leadership skills.
    • Make sure your culture is receptive and encouraging of leadership development.
    • Managers and peers should be educated to embrace development opportunities.
  • They Invest in the wrong people
    • Leadership isn’t for everyone.
    • As you work with current leaders and managers to identify future leaders in your organisation, make sure the people chosen for your leadership development track are passionate about your organisational purpose and want to develop leadership skills.


Now that you know some of the areas to avoid when creating a leadership development program, we’ll show you where you should focus in order to have success. Oracle suggests taking the following seven areas to craft a successful leadership development program.


  1. Determine the Best Leadership Style for Your Organisation
  2. Identify Current and Potential Leaders Within the Company
  3. Identify Leadership Gaps
  4. Develop Succession Plans for Critical Roles
  5. Develop Career Planning Goals for Potential Leaders
  6. Develop a Skills Roadmap for Future Leaders
  7. Develop Retention Programs for Current and Future Leaders

Make it Happen

As Australia aims to fix the leadership problem, leadership development will become a hot button topic. As you strive to help your organisation prepare tomorrow’s leaders, remember that implementing new systems takes time. Do not become discouraged. But don’t wait. Today is the time to begin preparing your organisation for a very bright future.  

By o.c. tanner
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