A survey of Hudson shows that 61.2% of Hong Kong employers don't formally assess leadership, the highest percentage in Asia Pacific, said the recruitment agency Hudson recently.

"[The lack of formal assessment] makes it difficult to understand current capability, where gaps exist and how leadership can be improved," said Tony Pownall, general manager, Hudson Hong Kong.

In this survey on 327 employers in Hong Kong, Hudson also finds that 39.5% of respondents perceive the greatest shortcoming of leadership as poor people management followed by poor change management at 19.0%.

"Reacting quickly to changing priorities and economic conditions is a core responsibility of any leader however, consulting and communicating with their teams is also essential. Finding a balance can be challenging but it's important that time is allowed for this," said Pownall.

A lack of clear vision and direction is cited as the most likely reason for a leader to derail in an organization (29.4%), followed by poor collaboration within an organization, according to survey results.

Poor collaboration (20.8%) is also seen as a greater issue in Hong Kong than in any other country surveyed.

"Employees are looking for leaders to be able to understand and guide them through a complex environment, and this can only be achieved by having close relationships, understanding what is happening within the business and altering course through consultative decision-making," Pownall noted.

In addition, survey results show that the best leaders develop a vision and inspire people to buy-in to it (62.7%). "Involving teams in the direction and decision-making process is key to achieving both understanding and buy-in," he said.

Perceptions around a lack of clear vision or direction often arise when there is a lack of alignment between leaders and employees. Leaders cannot create a strategy and vision in isolation and need input and support from their teams, he added.

Common attributes of successful leaders

Successful leaders share common attributes and formal assessment programs should take these into account, Pownall advised.

These attributes include: people leadership -- the ability to set the vision, and inspire others to act; the ability to manage complexity and change; mental efficiency; personal drive and ambition to succeed; and relational and cultural sensitivity, whereby leaders have strong interpersonal skills and are open and responsive to others' perspectives.

Behavioral forms of assessment are the best way to understand current capability, according to Hudson. These include psychometric tools to examine individuals' leadership traits and capabilities; assessing individuals' behavior through observation, simulation or leadership development centers; and measuring how their workplace behavior is perceived by using 360 degree feedback. Using a blend of these approaches provides a holistic, accurate and informative view of leadership capability, the company noted.

"Once leadership capability gaps are established, organizations can bridge these via effective, multidimensional leadership programs and strategies, which have a heavy focus on action-based learning," said Pownall. "Hudson also recommends support from coaches who promote self-awareness and behavioral change, and mentors who can provide advice and act as a sounding board."

"Leaders with a clear vision, who collaborate and communicate with their teams can maximize opportunities in these uncertain economic times," he noted.