America’s Leadership Exodus

Posted on February 25, 2015 by Don MacPherson.

To become extraordinary, organizations need leaders who can provide a vision, coach employees, hold themselves and others accountable, and execute strategy. In short, an organization without leadership is doomed to fail. If the results of a recent study by Modern Survey are any indication, America is in a very vulnerable position.

It turns out that 33% of leaders at organizations with 100+ employees are currently looking for a job at another organization. That’s one-third of all your leaders actively looking to leave! To provide some context, just two years ago – when Modern Survey began collecting data on the item “I am currently looking for a job at another organization” – only 22% of leaders agreed. The percentage of leaders looking has steadily climbed since Spring 2013. At the same time, individual contributors have stayed rather stable ranging from 22% to 25%.

Managers Looking

Those are the numbers…and those numbers are very scary if you are an executive, HR professional, or business owner. So, what can you do about it? That’s the subject of Modern Survey’s April webinar – “America’s Leadership Crisis: Is an Exodus Imminent?” scheduled for April 7th at noon Central.

We’d love to have you join us for that. To sign up, please click here.


Modern Survey measures the employee life-cycle – from onboarding effectiveness to an employee’s exit – for our clients. Twice annually we conduct a study of the U.S. workforce to learn how engaged employees are, how effectively they are being trained, and how they feel about the direction of their organization. To see more information on our Fall 2014 study – click here.

6 responses to “America’s Leadership Exodus”

  1. As CHCO, we are experiencing leaders leaving (primarily due to age) but not all, and find it very difficult to recruit new leaders (principals and higher level administrators) in the field of education.

    Your study touches at a major concern that we have. Your information has been invaluable as we look to planning for the future.

  2. Ben Simonton says:

    The rise is not surprising – the ability to shift jobs is increasing so more people are looking. The number of leaders dissatisfied with how they are treated is probably the same since most CEOs use the traditional top-down command and control approach to managing, an approach that naturally demotivates, disengages, and demeans people. No one likes being told what to do or being controlled and everyone wants to be heard and be respected. Command and control violates all of those human traits.

  3. Most people leave because they don’t like their boss. The fact that managers are leaving in slightly bigger numbers is not surprising when you consider they are likely more motivated to work harder and smarter. If they bump into a seniority situation or other artificial ceiling and get frustrated, they will leave because they have more mobility. Many times leaving is the only option for promotion.

    Having said all that, the first mistake was hiring badly. Hiring well is at the heart of lowering turnover. Most companies hire the same way companies did 50 years ago – cover letter/resumé, interview, offer – and it produces a good hire 1 out of 7 times. 84% of all employees are in some way disengaged from their job, due to poor job fit…

    Hiring properly is the foundation. Engagement has more to do with head and heart not $. What people do after they are hired builds on the foundation of hiring. Expectations not met is a big issue. Most companies do not follow through with what they promised when they hired the new employee.

    Leadership and communication are at the heart of a good day at the office.

  4. I know that sometimes when new employee surveys are initially administered, skepticism related to the perceived anonymity of the survey exists among some employees, potentially skewing results toward more favorable answers toward the employer. In other words, these employees might answer in a way that they think will please the survey administrator, and/or whoever they imagine might read their responses (such as their supervisor or HR). While this might seem unreasonable, and many/ most of us realize that the data is compiled anonymously as an aggregate, some employees are prone to have their doubts. After the survey has been in existence for a year or two, and people sense that they are “safe,” that is, they haven’t been retaliated against for their survey responses, the answers begin to become increasingly honest.

    This phenomenon aside, an 11% increase in outside job seeking is significant. I’m looking forward to more information and suggestions in the webinar.

  5. Olin Degge says:

    A variable in this Survey appearing to be high in those looking for another job could be pent up pressure that has built up in the long recession we have been in since 2008. Possibly the “normal” percentage would have moved over these years, but many deferred moving until the economy improved and created opportunities that some only now feeling safe in exploring. This variable might cause the Survey results to be skewed higher than “normal”.

  6. […] in senior leadership roles aren’t immune to leaving. Don’t let your leadership fall prey to feeling undervalued at your organization; give them the reassurance they need to stay. Otherwise, they’ll likely head for greener […]

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