The Right Consultants Can Mitigate Delays From Leadership Shortages

Contact: Valerie S. Hart, Kevin Cowherd, Vicki Y. Estrin, Holly McClung

September 13, 2021

The talent shortage is dominating headlines but it’s not just on the factory floor or in call centers. It’s occurring in the C-Suite, at business unit leadership levels, and cascading through all ranks at most organizations. Somewhat surprising, a recent survey by Russell Reynolds1 reported that 59% of queried leaders cited the availability of key talent and skills in the top five factors that will most impact their organization’s health over the next 12–18 months, second only to uncertain economic growth. [1] And notably, this was the area that the fewest respondents felt prepared to face.

Through the pandemic, there has been a significant and unique shift in the balance of power from employers to both the blue- and white-collar workforce. While many corporate leaders expect the pendulum of power to swing back, timing that reversal requires a crystal ball more than it does an MBA. What we see persisting is a labor environment composed of contradictory and complementary factors that make the U.S. labor pool less a monolith and more a series of unique groups each with specific challenges.

The capacity squeeze in leadership roles has both direct and indirect effects that impact a company’s ability to run its business and change its business in ways that are more imperative than ever. After all, if your business now depends on online transactions and your systems were designed and implemented five years ago, it’s quite possible that they cannot manage the throughput and complexity now expected by your clients and partners. In this environment, how does corporate America continue to implement the transformational changes needed to remain competitive while enduring potentially prolonged vacancies in the key leadership roles expected to drive such change?

An obvious solution is engaging consultants to help get transformational projects moving, restarted or brought to completion. However, in the absence of key leaders, this is a solution that can be viewed as less than ideal. Some firms don’t want to implement transformative changes without the leaders who can articulate the vision to their business peers and reach across silos to help with the lift and adoption once those transformations are implemented. The reasoning is varied but a key perception is that consultants come in and do one thing – implement new platforms or conduct strategy workshops. Those activities alone are just part of true change. Transformations fundamentally change how key processes, strategies and/or functions will operate going forward. Changes of such scope necessarily impact entire firms, not just their functional sponsors and their immediate teams.

But is delaying critical programs worth it? And how many times has a project been delayed waiting for a key leader only to have that leader flame out before the project is completed?

There are consulting firms that operate in a manner that is focused on the impact of the transformation to every part of the enterprise. At Ankura, we adapt best practices and lessons learned elsewhere to the ground state of our current clients to ensure relevant activity and meaningful engagement. Our consultants and advisers reach across the client’s enterprise to all their leaders to ensure understanding and sponsorship of the change, and to elicit their support to drive the adoption of change. Most importantly, our consultants ensure that their work scope includes helping to drive such change across the enterprise and bring all impacted functions along the change curve.

Such integrated and proven approaches foster an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, experience that moderates potential resistance and avoids unnecessary friction. You should expect nothing less from your transformation consultants. After all, time is not standing still, and neither are your competitors and opportunities.


1. Russell Reynolds 2021 Global Leadership Monitor May 4, 2021