Hey CEOs, One Sure Way to Become a Leadership Failure

Hey CEOs, One Sure Way to Become a Leadership Failure

It’s 2023 and optimism is high. There is excitement in the air, and the energy is positive. After a tough few years, people have adjusted further, recovered a little more, and are ready to take on the challenges and opportunities they see in front of them. And the focus is on the opportunities.

Great news, right?

I was going to write an article all about big leadership. About big organisations, with big opportunities, who want big outcomes. About embracing this incredible diversity of opportunity in front of us.

Stacey Ashley Big Leadership - Venn

Coupled with the decrease in focus on, and investment in, developing leaders at all levels, what you have is a massive capability gap in organisational leadership. DDI 2021 research showed  83% of businesses say it’s important to develop leaders at all levels, yet less than 5% of companies have implemented this.

Putting people into roles for which they are not prepared or equipped is a recipe for disaster. Or at least disappointment. It is a failure of leadership.

I think we are at a tipping point. Many CEOs have been skating by in the last few years…hoping it will be OK. Yet worldwide, there is a high level of leaders leaving organisations. If you do not have a robust leadership talent bench in place, you are exposed.

As CEO, this is your responsibility.

You set the tone for what is important, and a priority. You role model what matters every day.

A few years ago, as part of the launch of my first book The New Leader, I was having lunch with a group of CEOs. During lunch, one of the CEOs who was nearing retirement was lamenting that of their four direct reports, nobody was yet ready to step into the CEO role when he retired. Yet each of this CEO’s current direct reports had worked with him for at least four years.

There had been time to develop, or find more, leadership talent.

I blurted out that I thought it was a failure of leadership. This CEO said to me, in a shocked voice, “So you think this is my fault?” I responded, “Well, if not you, then who?”

“The most serious failure of leadership is the failure to foresee.”

Robert K Greenleaf, Founder of the Modern Servant leadership movement

The lack of a leadership talent bench is not a HR problem. It is your problem.

Yes, HR can provide you with some of the solutions. But the priority comes from you. If you want to create a strong leadership talent bench, then you, CEO, must lead…. And prioritise this.

You must have the big vision, to create future capability. (And quite possibly capability for right now if you’re being honest with yourself.) You need to make the bold decisions to prioritise the creation and development of your leadership talent bench, to make it a feature of your organisational capability, which will place you far ahead of many organisations who are not focused on this. And you need to take the brave action to commit, to let people know, and to put the activities and programmes in place to take the necessary steps. Because without this, you will not have a depth of leadership capability when you need it.

Without a strong leadership capability throughout your organisation, it becomes very hard for you to deliver the organisational outcomes for all your stakeholders.


  • How high is the priority for you to develop a leadership talent bench?
  • What is the risk if you don’t?
  • What is the first step you need to take?


I’d love to know your thoughts.

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THE COACHING LEADER™ - ORIGIN : Sydney 14 Aug, Brisbane 21 Aug, Online 27-28 Aug - With Stacey Ashley & Sarah Derry – Early Bird Individual & Group