In the next six months, you will be provided with the most comprehensive and cutting edge information regarding the hot topic of “T-shaped Leaders” available in the market today: who they are, what they look like, where they come from, why you need them, and how you can grow and develop them internally. These articles will provide a working model, evidence and proof of viability for adapting T-shapeness into your company at a functional talent level. Welcome to the new game of closing the “Talent Leadership Gap!”

ASPE, along with contributing experts in the field of training, management consulting, sourcing, recruiting and business-leading academia, will provide a steady flow of relevant, timely information balanced with real-world business case implementation and measurement. This information comes directly from companies that are embracing T-shapeness as a way to recruit and train incoming talent, develop a leadership workforce and align succession management programs.

A Leadership Development Model that Makes Sense

Developing T-shaped Leaders as a standard business practice across the U.S. has the potential to directly address a myriad of woes that plague our workforce today.  The rapid retirement rate of seasoned business professionals coming of age and exiting the marketplace is astounding, conservatively the numbers are over 100 million retirees, approximately 16,000 leaders each and every day for the next 18 years. Leaders will walk out the door taking their valuable business experience and IP with them. Some will remain for additional years depending on the financial health of the market and their individual retirement accounts, but the ones who stay will be highly paid and moderately engaged at best.

T-shapeness is not a magic pill that cures all human resources’ succession planning woes.  However, subsequent articles and supporting real-world application studies will demonstrate the efficacy and impact T-shaped workers can have on most business performance challenges.  Direct benefits of T-shaped leadership will be demonstrated across the spectrum of academic, public and private sectors that have been forced to adapt and change in order to keep up with the pace of technological innovation and uncertain market conditions. A disconnect between leader skillset readiness and corporate delivery of a viable solution is referred to as the “Leadership Risk Gap.”

Developing T-shaped leaders is a viable talent management solution for many problems stemming from global market uncertainty and rapid technological advancement.  Devastating real data reports on workforce engagement, technology displacement, poor corporate leadership governance, workforce stress, talent attraction / retention, employee obsolescence concerns, and even the overall health of employees due to work-related stress added up to revenue losses approaching the $500 billion mark in 2014.

According to research by Bersin by Deloitte, gaps in the leadership pipeline remain an urgent issue and there has been almost no progress from prior years. 87 percent of companies rate this important and 51 percent rate it urgent. Despite the fact that leadership development spending increased by 14 percent last year, only a third of the companies have programs focused on millennials and overall capability dropped by about 18 percent. There are essentially the “haves” and “have nots” in leadership. Companies that continuously invest in modern, re-engineered leadership programs far outperform their peers over time. Level 4 companies are spending almost three to four times as much as level 1 maturity companies, and the gap remains large.

Corporations and markets are still coping with the constant and uncomfortable ebb and flow of change that has beset global markets.  There is an ever-present sense that the unpredictable nature of business post-2000 is more the rule than the exception.  The flattening structure of middle management and extraordinary demands that U.S. and global firms have placed on existing talent have resulted in a recognizable pushback in employee behavior in the areas of loyalty, engagement, trust and willingness to go the extra mile.  Likewise there has been a higher expectation and demand placed on corporations to provide more work-life balance, open-source peer collaboration , environmental harmony in the workplace, empowerment, and security via transparent career paths.

The steady but slow economic rebound that started more than five years ago has bolstered a healthy reinvestment in training and employee development. Placing enterprise strategy and training dollars in lockstep for measurable impact has been the new rally cry in the C-suite; however, there is no defined strategy for addressing the leadership gap that is imminent. As with most crises planning, it happens long after the damage is already done.

Luckily the same industry that helped create the problem is also leading the charge to address it. IT recognized years ago that the high failure rates in upper management were a direct result of promoting and advancing technical experts into positions they were ill equipped to handle. Turning to academia for research, study and solutions on the matter has yielded some exciting programs to begin developing well-balanced leaders for the IT industry very early in their career life cycle. Building on that foundation, the T-shaped leadership model for business will soon evolve into the most adaptable and flexible model for structuring leadership development programs across most industries within the Fortune 500 and NASDAQ. T-shaped leaders will clearly be the in-demand talent well into the 21st century.

The Business Case for T-Shaped Leaders

The next article will dive deeper into the facts about how employees are aligning under the banner of T-shaped leadership and why T-shaped professionals should be a cornerstone of your integrated talent management program.