In the survey, the respondents have little faith in CEOs when it comes to their skill in ‘leading and running projects’. Only 42 per cent of the respondents give them more than three on a five-point scale, where the top grade is ‘entirely competent’. Boards/group executives and senior management get slightly higher grades on this question, but still only 52 per cent and 50 per cent respectively are given a pass grade.

Anders Richtnér - vd för SSE Executive Education - framför Handelshögskolan i Stockholm

Anders Richtnér, ©Juliana Wiklund Photography

“I find it hard to believe that so many executives are incompetent. The results may actually be due to the fact that competence has a shelf-life and needs to be topped up to remain relevant. Keeping their skills up to date is a major challenge for today’s managers, as society is undergoing so many changes,” says Anders Richtnér, CEO of SSE Executive Education, continuing:

“Obviously the survey is about perceived rather than real competence, but if employees feel that a manager’s skills are poor, they may question things more, which may make it unnecessarily difficult to drive the business forward.”

The survey also shows that executives at senior management level get low grades with regard to ‘leading, managing and organizing the business effectively’. The respondents give only 48 per cent of them a pass grade.

“Managers getting low grades on soft issues such as personal leadership and group dynamics was more expected. In a changing world, finding concrete tools to rely on in these areas is a real challenge.”

“We were, however, more surprised about the grades for ‘using key performance indicators, economic analysis and follow-up’. Here, 72 per cent of the managers at board/group management level were given a pass grade by their direct reports, but the figure was only 56 per cent for CEOs and 50 per cent for senior managers. This is core knowledge for leading a business and something you would expect executives in larger companies to have mastered,” says Anders Richtnér, who adds:

“I think it is worth considering whether the responses in the survey are due to a real lack of competence, or whether different models and tools are being used within the organization, making it hard to understand each other’s approaches and language use. If the latter is true, a natural solution would be to make sure that everyone is working from the same platform.”

Managers are generally graded most highly for ‘understanding their customers and market’, with 74 per cent of their immediate colleagues giving them a grade of more than three.

About the survey

The survey was conducted by Kantar Sifo through online interviews with 496 people in April–June 2018. The sample was based on people who have personnel responsibility, are members of a senior management team, report to a CEO or run major projects in companies with more than 50 employees, and who have had some sort of contact with leadership education. 78 per cent of those who responded work at companies with more than 200 employees. The respondents were instructed to think about the person they report to and assess their competence on a five-point scale, where one is entirely incompetent and five is entirely competent. A grade of four or five is considered a pass.

The proportion of all the managers in the survey who were given a grade of four or five.
Question: ‘We now want you to think about the person you report to. How would you grade that manager’s competence in the following areas?’

The responses have been broken down into the groups: ‘board/group management, CEO, C-level (reports to CEO/senior management)’.

The results, per area:

Understanding your customers and your market, 74%
Insight into the organization’s strengths and areas for development, 64%
Understanding how the business should be developed to adapt to global changes, 63%
Leading through clear values and a sustainable corporate culture, 58%
Understanding and acting on the threats and opportunities of digitalization, 57%
Using key performance indicators, economic analysis and follow-up, 55%
Formulating relevant targets and strategies, 55%
Leading, managing and organizing the business effectively, 52%
Enthusing and inspiring managers and employees, 51%
Personal leadership, e.g. self-awareness, motivating others and understanding group dynamics, 51%
Leading and driving change processes, 50%
Leading and running projects, 48%

For more information, please contact:

Anders Richtnér
CEO, SSE Executive Education
Tel: +46 73 659 77 27

About SSE Executive Education

SSE Executive Education at the Stockholm School of Economics is Northern Europe’s leading partner for executive education and is ranked number one in the Nordic region within leadership and business development according to the Financial Times. At SSE Executive Education, academic research is integrated with business. SSE Executive Education develops leaders focused on cutting-edge areas, including innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainable growth and financial economics, as well as boosting the competitiveness of companies, organizations and the public sector through powerful transformation.

Photos: ©Juliana Wiklund Photography