Leadership Development for Success!

Leadership Development = Organization Survival + Organization Success

As a HR Leader, one of the key priorities I was focused on was developing leadership capability. It was a priority in almost all organizations I worked with and makes me believe that Leadership Development is a key priority for most organizations. Leadership Development continues to be one of the critical priorities for the HR Organizations globally.Let’s look at some market information:

  • Entrepreneur India in their article on 4 HR Priorities you need to focus on This Year (2016), lists Developing Leaders at all Levels as the first priority.
  • Human Resources Online shares that 43% of the ASEAN CEOs would make changes around building a pipeline of leaders for tomorrow.
  • In the HR Trend and Priorities for 2016 from McLean & Company published in the Human Capital Institute, we see that Leadership/Management development and employee development are the two highest priority HR areas.
    Research from Hudson shows that Leadership Development is the top people priority for Australian and New Zealand decision makers in 2016.

So the message is clear – Leadership Development is a Key priority for all Organizations and in the words of John Maxwell, “The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.”

The next point we need to ask is Why Leadership Development is so critical. Let me share a few reasons as why this is important.

The VUCA Business Environment is one of the key triggers. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. In such a business environment, what worked before does not work anymore and old leadership approaches are not delivering results. We see the need for Leaders to adapt their style & skills in tune with the needs of managing the Business in a VUCA environment and for new leaders to be oriented to the mindset and skill set required for leading in a VUCA environment.

The speed at which we develop leaders is not in pace with the speed of Change. Change is so fast that organizations go out of business in a few months, even before the leaders are able to respond. Leaders need skills to lead & engage their teams in times of change and given the speed of change there is a lack of these skills exposing the organizations to high risks.

The demographic change in the workplace has triggered the need for a leadership style and skill set that will cater to the needs of a diverse workplace. In an environment where diversity is key to sustaining and fueling innovation and to create a highly engaged workforce, workplaces need leaders who are able to manage a diverse workforce, nurture diversity and innovation and cater to the needs of a multi-demographic environment.

As businesses grow fast, it needs new leaders and the leaders are either hired from within or from the market. This brings a few important challenges – how do we hire those from the market who are attuned to the culture and leadership expectations of the organization? How do we get them on-board and socialize them to the leadership mindset and expectations of their roles? How can we grow leaders from within effectively? And how can we develop individual contributors into team leaders? Finally how do we do the above fast?
Having the right Leaders in the right roles at the right time to manage succession planning requirements is important. The absence of the right leaders will mean many things for the organization – not being able to deliver the projects on time, time lapse due to the need to find backups, knowledge loss and costs.

We can add several reasons to justify why Leadership Development is important. But the writing on the wall is clear. Those organizations which invest in Leadership Development are able to survive and succeed in the VUCA business environment. Wayne Calloway, Former Chairman of Pepsico In was able to clear share what happens to organizations if they don’t pay attention to this key priority. “I’ll bet most of the companies that are in life-or-death battles got into that kind of trouble because they didn’t pay enough attention to developing their leaders.”

So the next question is what we can do as Business Leaders and HR Leaders to address the key priority of Leadership Development in our organizations. Here are a few tips

Focus – Business/HR Leaders need to find the time and energy to give the required attention to Leadership Development. In fact this should be the No 1 priority for them. The key responsibility for developing leaders rests with the current leaders of the organization.

Mindset – Leaders need to have the mindset of developing more Leaders and this means they need to dedicate time, be willing to coach and mentor others and be focused on identifying the future leaders. In the words of Tom Peters“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”This also means whether the Leaders are good role models, else we will have irrelevant leaders being developed.

Accountability – Leadership Development is more successful if its driven by the Business rather than the HR/Learning Teams. It should be a Business driven mandate to develop leaders at all levels with the relevant support from HR/Learning teams.

Leadership Style – It’s critical to be clear about the Leadership style that will suit your organization type. This will help in identifying the appropriate leadership competencies and behaviours to be exhibited. Leadership behaviours need to be aligned to the business priorities as well and it is up to the Leadership & HR team to scan the organization and set the tone in terms of the expected leadership behaviours.

Development Opportunities – While Leaders have the prime responsibility for developing leaders, organizations need to have several development opportunities. This could be formal development programs delivered by in-house or external trainers, external programs, mentoring programs, coaching programs, in role development and more. The important point is to come up with a plan that will suit your specific organization and execute that plan well. Organizations should identify critical roles and develop succession plans for those roles and this will mean there should be a robust process to identify and develop potential leaders in the organization.

Tools – Organizations need to leverage the relevant tools to facilitate Leadership Development. One of the key challenges is to be able to increase the self awareness of leaders. We have several tools to achieve this. It could be a simple Johari window or a coaching intervention or 360 Feedback tools. Another tool I have found to be useful is an Individual development plan. If the plan is followed well with commitment from both the Leader and his/her supervisor, I have seen significant returns.

As Arnold Glasow says “One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” So, if Leadership Development is your key challenge or a critical development area for you, it’s time for you to take action.

Dr. Ragland Gamaliel

Director – Institute of Organization Effectiveness