The definitive guide to building critical leadership skills

Do our employees have the skills and capabilities we need?

Well, according to a late 2020 Gartner study, the answer is no.  In fact, they found building critical skills and competencies is the #1 priority for HR leaders worldwide in 2021:

Gartner Top 3


What you will learn from this guide

  • Why current methods of leadership training are less than 5% efficient at addressing critical skills gaps
  • How, you can address critical skills gaps and increase leadership training ROI by 20x

About the data

Data collection timeframe: 6 years (2015 - 2020)

Geographies covered: Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Singapore

Number of participating organisations: 1,021

Sectors represented: Commercial enterprise, non-profit, local, state and federal government

Number of managers assessed: 36, 800

Levels assessed: Emerging leaders, frontline managers, mid level managers, senior & executive managers

Special thanks: LS Director of Learning Research and Professor Emeritus E.J Kehoe and his team. Thanks to you, we are able to present this definitive guide, backed by the largest and most accurate study of its kind ever created.

What is a Training Needs Analysis?

A Training Needs Analysis/Assessment (TNA), or skills gap analysis is a process in which the desired knowledge and skills of a particular job role or level are compared to the current skills of employees holding that job role or level.

The process is required to determine what interventions (training or other) need to take place in order to lift the performance of that employee or group of employees to meet the organisation’s needs.

The ultimate goal of a training needs analysis or skills gap analysis is to determine the gap between the current and desired behaviours, and whether or not training is the best way to close that gap.

Learn more

Check out the full resource: What is a Training Needs Analysis?

Conducting a Training Needs Analysis

The key steps for undertaking a Training Needs Analysis/Assessment (TNA) are as follows:

  1. Identify and prioritise the problems / pain points you are looking to solve.
  2. Work out the desired future state: how do you want people to behave.
  3. Work out whether or not it’s a skills gap that’s driving current behaviour.
  4. Develop recommendations to close the skills gap.

Learn more

Check out the full resource: Conducting a Training Needs Analysis

Common leadership assessment tools and what they actually measure

In a perfect world, as a HR or L&D/OD professional, you would be looking for the most comprehensive, scientifically valid assessment you can get to produce highly accurate and predictive data points for all current or future employees.

Unfortunately, in the real world you’ve also got to weigh up the following considerations:

  • Cost – how much it costs you to develop and administer (and debrief) the assessment.
  • Scalability – how quickly and efficiently you can administer the assessment to candidates.
  • User experience – how people feel when they complete the assessment and whether or not it produces “assessment fatigue” (yes, that’s a real thing).

We categorise 10 common leadership assessments into the following buckets, based on what they measure:

  • Personality
  • Behavioural style
  • Skills
  • Cognitive ability (Intelligence, IQ)

Learn more

Check out the full resource: Common leadership assessment tools and what they actually measure

Defining critical leadership skills

In order to measure critical leadership skills gaps, first you must define what you mean by critical leadership skills. As mentioned in the previous sections, you are wanting to isolate competencies that are “trainable”.

This means, for the purposes of a Training Needs Analysis you do NOT want to be including items related to:

  • Personality
  • Cognitive ability (Intelligence, IQ)

Defining critical leadership skills, that are trainable is an extremely time consuming and difficult process. After reviewing over 1,000 separate competency frameworks, we found:

  • 90%+ of leadership competencies overlap in every framework
  • We outline the 40 universal critical leadership skills

Leadership skills that are as close as possible to “universal” and "trainable" for the average person.

Learn more

Check out the full resource: The 40 critical, universal leadership skills

Measuring critical leadership skills gaps

Having defined what we mean by a critical skills gap, the next challenge is how to measure that skills gap as accurately as possible, both at the individual and the organisational level.

This is much a much more difficult and complex issue than it may first appear. There are a number of ways of gathering data and each has an appropriate application.

In the end, we decided upon four main criterion to determine the most appropriate way to measure critical leadership skills gaps:

  • Objective - Is not subject to the bias of an individual, or groups of indivduals
  • Practical - Is scalable, cost-effective and delivers an acceptable user experience (i.e. people will actually complete the assessment)
  • Reliable & Accurate - Data coming back must be consistently relied upon to make accurate decisions about what training should be delivered

Here is the summary of what we found after researching various methods for measuring critical leadership skills gaps:

  • On the job observation - Somewhat objective, impractical, somewhat accurate
  • Self-assessment - Subjective, practial, unreliable and innaccurate
  • 360 feedback - Subjective, practial, unreliable and innacurate
  • Situational judgement tests (Scenario-based testing) - Objective, practical, reliable and accurate

Learn more

Check out the full resource: Measuring the 40 critical, universal leadership skills

Data driven insights

Here are some of the insights we have gathered after conducting knowledge and skills tests on over 30,000 managers from all over the world:

Knowledge and skill gaps cluster in emerging leaders and frontline managers
  • 82% of emerging and frontline managers have critical leadership skills gaps
  • Less than 20% of middle managers have critical leadership skills gaps
  • Less than 10% of senior and executive managers have critical leadership skills gaps
Frontline and emerging leader skills gap profile
  • The average number of critical skills gaps is 2 out of 40 areas per person
  • In a group of 10 managers, only 2 are likely to share a skills gap area
Leadership development program efficiency and ROI
  • One size fits all leadership skills training and development programs are less than 5% efficient
  • Objective skills assessments provide the opportunity to increase training ROI by 20x on average

Learn more

Check out the full resource: Data driven insights gathered from assessing over 30,000 managers

How we can help

If you want to save the years of time, effort and headache of trying to figure all this stuff out for yourself, Leadership Success can help. We offer the original fundamental leadership skills assessment.

Our Leadership skills assessment enables you to quickly and cost-effectively:

  • Conduct a leadership fundamentals skills gap analysis - By benchmarking your managers knowledege and skills in the 40 universal, fundamental leadership skill areas
  • Identify leadership skills gaps for every individual - By compiling the skills gaps results for each individual manager and comparing them to a benchmark
  • Create individual development plans targeted at closing critical skills gaps - By ranking the performance in each area and building a data-driven Individual Skills Development Plan

Learn more

Check out how we can help: Assess your leaders with Leadership Success