Imagine that you’re the CEO of a company, and you discover that 71% of your managers are not fully aligned with your vision. Do you think there’s any chance that you’re going to hit your targets this year? Or next? Of course not.
If I’m that CEO, I’m going to have sleepless nights until that alignment issue gets resolved.
In fact, it doesn’t matter how good or innovative your company’s vision is; if leaders at every level of the company aren’t fully aligned with that vision, it has almost no chance of success.
And disturbingly, rampant misalignment is precisely what a new study discovered. Leadership IQ’s new report, The State Of Leadership Development In 2020, surveyed 21,008 employees to assess leaders’ effectiveness.
And one of the findings from this study is that only 29% of employees say that their leader’s vision for the future always seems to be aligned with the organization’s.
With a pandemic, recession, and racial justice protests, companies are fundamentally rethinking their visions and strategies. And, of course, that’s what most companies should be doing in these fraught times. But one of the critical roles of leadership development is to ensure that leaders at all levels are fully aligned with whatever the current strategy happens to be. And that clearly is not happening.
Having a brilliant vision and strategy doesn’t make a difference if you can’t get your leaders and employees to buy into that vision. It’s the business version of the old philosophy question; if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it really make a sound?
Look at the chart below to see responses to the question, “My leader’s vision for the future seems to be aligned with the organization’s.”
A majority of employees feel that their leader’s vision for the future is not aligned with the organization’s. Only 29% of employees say that their leader’s vision for the future always seems to be aligned with the organization’s. By contrast, 16% say their leader’s vision for the future is never or rarely aligned with the organization’s.
While that 16% is troubling, we should really be concerned that 71% of people answered something other than “always.” Because when it comes to strategic alignment with a company’s vision, anything less than “always” raises the possibility of having an embarrassing moment where somebody does something counter to the vision, and they end up on the front page of Forbes or The New York Times.
For example, in April, The New York Times ran an article about Trader Joe’s, detailing examples where store managers told employees not to wear masks because it could frighten customers. The article noted, “At various times, Trader Joe’s has said employees are allowed to wear masks and gloves. But individual stores have adopted different protocols, and some of the chain’s messages have confused employees.”
This is the kind of inconsistent execution on a vision that gives CEOs serious heartburn. This inconsistency ends up eroding a brand’s trust with consumers (which will ultimately result in negative bottom line impacts). Even more seriously, consider the consequences of inconsistent execution around pandemic-related safety measures, like mask wearing or social distancing.
This study also discovered that leaders’ misalignment with the company vision doesn’t just result in bad press or diminished consumer trust. This misalignment also directly impacts employee engagement.
As you can see in the below regression line, the more a leader’s vision for the future seems to be aligned with the organization’s, the more an employee will be inspired to give their best effort at work. Imagine a leadership team with competing visions; the chances that they will successfully execute on a business strategy are incredibly small.
The study this data comes from is called The State Of Leadership Development In 2020. It has that title because the fate of most organizations is heavily determined by whether or not they’ve developed their leaders sufficiently to steer the organization through one of the most challenging economies in modern history.
But as you can see from the data, when most employees look at their leaders, they see a cadre of folks unprepared for the current environment. Sure, there are fantastic leaders out there; and those managers and executives are thriving amidst the current turbulence.
But what about the rest? How many misaligned frontline managers does it take to undermine a CEO’s vision? How many poorly-trained store managers does it take before a company ends up on the front page of Forbes or The New York Times?
In many cases, the problem isn’t that the leaders are inherently awful or incompetent (although those cases do exist). Much of the time, it’s simply the case that leaders haven’t been sufficiently developed and trained. And that’s an issue that an executive team or HR department should be able to correct pretty quickly.
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