‘Too little science’ used to manage leadership talent quality, says CEB’s Monahan

Leadership talent quality gets far too little attention from boards entrusted with ensuring businesses’ success despite its importance to company performance and productivity, Tom Monahan, chief executive of leading member-based advisory company CEB [formerly Corporate Executive Board] has warned.

In fact, Monahan told a London audience Tuesday, “far less important elements of a business are managed with far greater analysis and rigour. A first-year supply manager would bring stronger process and deeper analysis to cleaning supplies than most boards bring to the analysis of talent”.

“Despite its importance, leadership quality is managed too much like art and too little like science,” Monahan said in his address to senior executives at a Financial Times-CEB forum on developing global leaders, attended by Recruiter.

Today, he said, the leadership skills that “drive returns” are “influence, collaboration, judgment, tolerance of ambiguity, and management of culture. Not things we are great at measuring – or indeed, even value always – but vital to great outcomes”.

Monahan added: “Applying more rigour to identifying and developing leaders against old criteria is a sure-fire route to failure.”

CEB has 16,000 senior executive members.

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