Leadership abilities built on trust and communication serve us well beyond the workplace. Yet as the workforce evolves faster than ever, a leadership gap has emerged — one with real costs. Developing the next generation of diverse, empathetic leaders is key for small businesses aiming to compete through uncertainty.
The data reveals key insights around the state of leadership development and barriers to unlocking leadership potential across organizations and demographics.
The Broad Impact of Leadership
Leadership takes many forms, but in all areas of life it enables growth, connection and productivity.
- 83% of organizations seek to develop leaders at every level to encourage innovation and resiliency
- Only 48% of employees rate their company’s leadership as fully meeting their needs
- 69% of staff say recognition from leadership influences their motivation and output
Organizations clearly recognize the need for leadership depth. But both employer and employee perspectives indicate there’s substantial room for improvement when it comes to leadership engagement across organizations.
Thriving small businesses depend on leadership skills permeating through all levels. Forward-looking companies will prioritize inclusive leadership development not just to engage employees, but to remain nimble in turbulent times.
The State of Leadership Training
- Only 14% of executives believe they have the robust leadership talent needed for growth
- Just 5% of companies have leadership training penetrated through the organization
- 63% of Millennials report no access to leadership skills training
The data highlights a gap between the desire to nurture strong leadership pipelines and successfully achieving it. For small businesses competing for talent with resource-rich larger companies, a focus on leadership development is key.
Businesses investing in formal and informal leadership training programs — from mentoring structures to management training — are reaping the benefits. My own small consulting firm has seen a 25% increase in employee performance after instituting a peer-to-peer leadership program.
Barriers Holding Leadership Potential Back
Several clear factors are converging to stall leadership growth across industries and demographics.
- 55% of CEOs name developing leadership as a top challenge
- Women hold 59% of master’s degrees but only 5% of S&P 500 CEO roles
- Ethnically diverse executive teams achieve 36% higher profits
A lack of organizational priorities, access and inclusion issues stall leadership potential. And as the next chart illustrates, this leadership gap has quantifiable costs over time.
The Rising Costs of Unfulfilled Leadership Potential
When employees lack leadership training and development opportunities, organizations face real financial and cultural consequences.
|Revenue loss from leadership development delays
|7% per year
|Increased healthcare costs from high-stress environments
|Workplace accidents attributable to stress
Stats sources: Zippia, Gallup, Apollo Technical
Rising stresses and shrinking leadership threaten productivity, innovation, and ultimately the bottom line.
Essential Leadership Skills for the Future
As small businesses compete for talent, leadership training that aligns with emerging workforce priorities is essential.
In-Demand Leadership Skills
- Employee development and coaching
- Building trust and psychological safety
- Cross-cultural dexterity and inclusion
- Strategic thinking and adaptability
- Data literacy and tech stack fluency
Leadership training rooted in empathy, ethics and inclusivity promises stronger returns — both financially and culturally.
Leadership for the Future Begins Now
The data reveals significant transitions in the leadership landscape. As power shifts to a more diverse, purpose-driven workforce, small companies have an opportunity to lead by developing inclusive leadership at all levels.
Creating cultures where leadership potential has room to flourish will grant small businesses a competitive edge now and a pipeline of skills to carry them into the future. The time to lay the foundation is now.
Which leadership statistics stand out to you as most essential for small business owners to consider? Share your thoughts in the comments below!