Borderless Leadership Development Survey 2016: Executives demand improvement in the development of leaders


A surprising 44% of executives characterize leadership development in their organization as poor, and more than half describe it as ineffective, according to the 2016 Leadership Development Survey conducted by Borderless Research.The survey captured insights from close to 1,000 senior executives across a range of industries. The high rate of response and depth of feedback demonstrate that leadership development is of high relevance and is considered a key enabler of business strategy and growth.


Key findings


  • Leadership Development is believed to be a main driver for ensuring delivery of business results (43%) and business growth (20%).
  • Nearly half of respondents (44%) characterize leadership development in their organization as poor, and more than half (54%) describe it as ineffective.
  • A large majority (nearly 60%) are dissatisfied with their organization’s investment in leadership development activities, and more than 65% state that the level of their organization’s investment in these activities has, in recent years, declined or stagnated.
  • 29% of respondents are not aware of their organization having any kind of leadership coaching or mentoring program.
  • A majority (56%) believe support from top management to be a critical success factor for ensuring effective leadership development within organizations.



leadership challengeLeadership for Small Business




The Borderless perspective


The level of satisfaction with the effectiveness of and investment in leadership development is low, suggesting that either too little effort is made by organizations to establish leadership development programs or that what has been established fails to meet the expectations of their executives.


“In prioritizing all of the elements that go into building a successful business, it would seem that many corporate heads consider leadership development to be a low priority ‘nice to have’ instead of a strategic imperative,” says Niels-Peter van Doorn, Head of Leadership Consulting at Borderless.




leadership soft skillstop 5 leadership skills 

While most argue that effective leadership is necessary to achieve positive business results, the lack of focus on development suggests that leaders are expected to possess all essential leadership skills innately. This is reflected in corporate tendencies to “hire in” senior executives instead of growing and advancing executives from within. “Over-reliance on external hiring can frustrate and demotivate teams, and could consequently exacerbate internal organizational challenges,” Niels-Peter cautions. To that end, Borderless offers the following six recommendations to establish robust leadership development programs:


  1. In building leadership programs, a balanced approach focusing on both business acumen and soft skills and understanding the interrelationships between these two elements, is required.
  2. The active involvement of top executives in leadership development is necessary, and accountability for it should be held by the CEO.
  3. Organizations must accelerate the development of less experienced executives to fill the emerging leadership gap, accentuated by ageing executive populations in many ‘traditional’ industries.
  4. Effective leadership development programs need to be grounded in real-life challenges.
  5. Job rotation, which has the added advantage of creating higher levels of understanding and cooperation between functions, deserves higher priority if organizations are to develop executives with broad-based general management skills.
  6. If leadership development drives profitability and growth, then active engagement in leadership development should never be optional






About Borderless


Founded in 2000, Borderless is a full-service, international leadership and executive search consulting firm, combining business expertise with insights into the human factors of organizations. The firm helps companies develop business, team and personal leadership qualities and attract talented executives. Borderless focuses on Chemicals & Converting sectors, Food & Drink, Life Sciences and Oil & Gas, industries in which many of its consultants have led earlier lives as executives. Borderless is a member of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants and adheres to the quality and professional standards that distinguish the world's top leadership and executive search consulting firms.