Today’s global, volatile and complex business environment requires a new breed of leader. “Get me more leaders who are smart, have good people skills and have the courage of their convictions.” said one Fortune 500 CEO. To thrive, today’s leaders need to be strategic AND be able to connect deeply with people AND lead their organizations down the path of continuous evolution. Developing leaders that are ready to embrace this multifaceted style of leadership is an increasing challenge. Traditional approaches to leadership development, which tend to be static and one-size-fits-all, are no longer able to keep pace. Development must be far more dynamic to ensure that an organization’s leaders are ready to take on increasingly complex and ambiguous roles.
Today, high potential leaders are not just those leaders destined for the C-Suite. They are found at all levels of the organization and accelerating their development has become an urgent and multifaceted process. To meet the development needs of these emerging leaders, one needs to ask the essential question:
“What potential roles and opportunities could the future hold for them inside the organization?”
Once those questions are answered, the next challenge to confront is how can we prepare them for these roles more quickly? In order to accelerate the development of high performing leaders, successful organizations are making some significant shifts in the design of their leadership development programs.
It’s widely known that this next generation of leaders places a high value on experiences. Furthermore, building leadership capabilities like design thinking or collaborative problem solving is challenging to do in the sterile environment of a classroom. These types of capabilities are best developed by immersing leaders into an actual or simulated environment where they see, feel, and touch the types of leadership challenges they will be facing. Recently we hosted an immersion experience for a group of leaders from a financial services firm who wanted to develop leaders who could create the future of consumer banking. The group met leaders from high-tech firms and online consumer providers. They also had conversations with thought leaders and actual consumers to build a deep connection to the needs they would be meeting. All of these learning experiences were orchestrated by a skilled facilitator who ensured that each participant was building the skills of exploration, innovation, and application of their learning to their company’s unique business challenge.
“Development has gone far beyond the classroom… today it’s more of a conversation” says Sankaranarayanan Padmanabhan, Executive Chairman, Tata Business Excellence Group. Our experience with clients is similar. Companies are looking to develop the communication, interpretation, and influence skills leaders need to cause connection and collaboration. We recently completed a program designed to encourage free-flowing facilitated dialog between a cadre of leaders, their CEO and well-known thought leaders. Through expert facilitation, participants learned to stretch their thinking, engage deeply with the issues of the day that included trends and innovations that impact growth, strategic change, attraction & retention of talented people & the aligned execution of strategic plans. This leadership experience has set the stage for rapid growth and evolution.
Speed to competence is becoming an increasingly important metric in leadership development. Leaders must be faster and nimbler than ever. In order to shorten the time between learning and application, their development must become more individualized to their needs and accessible when they need it. To achieve this, many organizations are delivering foundational leadership skills in more digitized environments. Action learning is being accelerated through online collaboration methods. Focused, outcome-based coaching continues to play an important role but in shorter, more relevant “bursts” vs long, drawn-out assignments. There is still a place for cohort learning but smart organizations are focusing those investments on issues and experiences where there is a high return on the investment of time and resources.
We recently worked with an organization that had been growing through acquisition over the course of several years. Future growth would be driven through organic strategies and would require leaders who could collaborate well having shifted their thinking to an enterprise perspective. We designed a development experience that built strategic alignment across their top 300 leaders from multiple geographies, then brought these same leaders together in smaller groups to immerse themselves in the collaborative work that would define the future. We used a custom-built simulation so that leaders could see the implications of their actions in real time. We added to the experience individualized, fast-track assessment and coaching that helped each participant to address their personal obstacles to authentic engagement. As a result, the company has successfully made the strategic shift to organic growth and continues to lead the industry.
Then deliver with excellence. And if you need help, give us a call.