The best leaders: few and far, born not made

10 to 15 per cent of the population have about 6/10 of these traits and they can be trained into becoming top leaders

Leadership is in crisis with baby boomers retiring and fewer Gen Ys stepping up to the plate, according to a number of leadership experts, who predict there will be profound shortages of leaders in the future.

This problem is compounded by the fact that there is a shortage of leadership potential, and Gallup research shows that only three in 1000 have outstanding leadership qualities based on 10 key traits.

However, about 10 to 15 per cent of the population have about six of these traits and they can be trained into becoming top leaders, according to Gallup’s lead researcher for the entrepreneurship initiative Sangeeta Badal.

“The first step is to identify who has that innate ability to be successful in an entrepreneurial role and then you design developmental activities to foster and build on that talent,” she said.

“The person who has a base talent for that activity is going to flourish in the training stage.”

“It’s about understanding a little about the natural behaviours of people so you’re not just hiring for the job but you’re hiring for two or three jobs out”

Wendy Montague, head of leadership and talent for Hay Group, said HR managers need to start recruiting strategically and look at future leaders instead of just recruiting for specific jobs.

“It’s a different animal. I’m looking for someone who can not only sell now but also lead into the future,” she said.

“If I see a person who enjoys coaching and developing people, I’m going to put them on a high potential list in the future because they’re naturally showing the leadership skills that are so important.

“It’s about understanding a little about the natural behaviours of people so you’re not just hiring for the job but you’re hiring for two or three jobs out.”

Montague said it is important to use diagnostics to analyse the traits that set them apart.

“There’s a criterion sample of average versus superior, so you identify those three or four key things that make the difference for leaders and start to hire for those at the entry level and the middle level,’’ she said.