How much do you invest in leadership development?

There is no doubt that we live in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

Girl in a mountain valleyLeaders work in increasingly flatter and leaner organizations. They are more diverse, culturally and generationally. Their collaborations may be virtual, as well as working alongside, and navigating the virtual world brings additional demands.

Leaders increasingly work in resource-starved environments where demands are greater. This demands better strategic thinking, more creativity and innovation, and greater agility and responsiveness. In short, today’s leaders need to be even more flexible and adaptive.

This raises a significant concern. Simply put, because a number of survey sover the past two years have questioned whether organizations have the necessary talent and skills to effectively respond to these emerging challenges.

One reason for this is the predominance of outdated approaches to leadership development. We still live with a ‘sheep dip’ mentality, where staff are cycled through a ‘training programme’ and then expected to transform organizations overnight.

What doesn’t help is that often they will be returning to organizations where permission and trust are not in place for those same staff to practice what they learned, let alone transform their team or organization.

I believe, as a consequence, that we need a greater and different investment in leadership development, especially if transformational change is expected.

If leadership begins with the individual,which I firmly believe, then let’s start here. How to do this involves three key steps:

  1. We need to expand our definition of leader. They are not the privileged few att he apex of an organization. They exist at every level, even though their job role or title may not indicate this. We need to acknowledge their presence, and invest in their skills and talents.
  2. We need to redefine which leadership capabilities matter most. Increasingly, leaders exist in long span of control networks. They need to get things done without too much ‘command and control’. They need to trust other staff, leaders themselves, to do what is needed without high levels of oversight and supervision.
  3. We need to re-think leadership development methods. This, particularly so, because of time demands in highly-pressured working environment. Many organizations are moving to virtual solutions to reduce both cost and pressure of time. ‘Sheep-dip’ is clearly no longer a viable solution. Of greater concern is the climate which newly trained staff, at whatever level, encounter during and upon completion of their training. They have to be given the opportunity to practice, make mistakes, and receive coaching and support on improving their talents and skills. Learning from mistakes is key to this approach, and patience, perseverance and encouragement are required from line-managers in the process.

More so, individuals need to recognise for themselves what development is required and pursue this vigorously. As an example, a Millenial I coach monthly has identified two clear goals for the year. His coaching is focused primarily on those two goals. He supplements this with a mixture of reading, course participation and webinar learning. He is fully committed to his learning and development. He is probably one of the few, maybe the only one in his organisation that is.

I believe that he represents the way ahead for those interested in leadership development. You need to develop a leadership mindset focused on organization transformation. You need to develop core capabilities that enable you to respond to relentless change. Among them I would emphasise an ability to collaborate and influence. I’d complement those with abilities in negotiation, communication, and manging change.

In summary, leadership development for the future must enhance:

  • A mindset that focuses on organization transformation, not just improving core skills;
  • Core capabilities that move you, your team and your organization way beyond command and control; and,
  • Staff at all levels of your organization, not just the usual suspects.

I believe that individuals and organizations that can do this well will bring greater success, for themselves and for their organizations.

What do you think? How well are you investing in your leadership development? What more do you need to do?

If you need help with your development, I am always happy to listen and ready to help?

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