Leadership Development

A-Z of Leadership Development: Learn How To Do It Right

Table of contents

Leadership development has been a said priority for most organizations. However, more often than not, this commitment is just on paper. Let us quickly look at some facts.

According to a study by Brandon Hall, 83% organizations say that it is important to develop leadership at all levels.

However, a mere 5% have actually implemented it at all levels. Even where implemented, there still exist significant challenges. At the same time, the nature of leadership development and the role of a leader in an organization is fast changing. In such a scenario, conventional leadership development practices following a hierarchical model may not be the best solution for organizational success. There is an urgent need to reinvent the wheel and embrace leadership development with behavioral change agents.

What is leadership development?

Leadership development refers to formal or informal activities that enhance the skills, abilities, and qualities of leaders. The primary goal of the leadership development process is to produce high-caliber leaders.

It equips leaders with skills that can help them enhance the productivity of their team. It helps potential leaders to take up managerial roles and also boosts the productivity of employees, further translating into profitable business decisions and strategies.

Leadership development programs vary massively in complexit, cost, and style of teaching. Coaching and mentoring are the two most common forms of leadership development often used to guide and develop leaders.

Why is leadership development important?

Leadership development equips leaders with skills that will enable them to enhance the productivity of their team. It helps potential leaders to take up managerial roles and even boosts employee productivity. This can further translate into profitable business decisions and strategies for your organization.

Here’s why leadership development is important for your organization:

Boosts Financial Performance

Studies show that companies that rate highly for their investments in human capital deliver stock market returns 5 times higher than those of companies with less emphasis on human capital. Leadership development acts as a total game-changer by increasing the ability to cut expenses, generate new revenue streams, and improve customer satisfaction.

Creates skilled and empowered leaders

Updating the way your leaders work to be more in keeping with Industry 4.0 means a shift in leadership’s thinking from siloed or ‘hero’ leadership. Here, only one person makes all the decisions and everyone follows. Here, people from various functions, departments, and roles work collaboratively with a somewhat flattened hierarchy.

Increased ability to adapt to change

Just like Stephen Hawking said,” Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”, it goes without saying that change is integral to improvement, and growth . Probably why it should be an ongoing process. Make sure to incorporate a commitment to change in your organization. Even in an unpredictable business environment, at least 86% of companies with leadership development programs in place are more successful when it comes to rapidly responding to change, compared to 52% of companies with less mature leadership programs.

Increases employee loyalty

Leadership development that takes place within an organization inspires employees to be loyal, as it shows that there are growth opportunities available for them. It is also cheaper, and requires less time, than the cumbersome tasks that include finding, hiring, and training leaders from outside.

Attract, Develop, and Retain Talent

Leadership development enhances employee engagement, improves the organization's ability to deal with talent pipeline shortfalls, and lowers the problems and costs of turnover. Great leaders are able to attract, hire, and encourage excellent employees. A manager who lacks strong leadership abilities will have a difficult time attracting and retaining high-performing employees.

Furthermore, developing, coaching, and promoting individuals inside is frequently less expensive in the long run than hiring someone externally. This makes leadership development an excellent investment.

Top 5 Leadership Development Goals

Some of us are natural-born leaders, while the rest of us develop these leadership skills over time. In both cases, there’s still room for growth. And one of the simplest ways to make this happen is by setting the right leadership development goals. Always remember that the goals you set should be geared towards improving your weaknesses and enhancing your leadership style.

Adaptability to change and growth:

We often tend to go with the assumption that we know it all. But instead of doing this, pause for a moment and get yourself a piece of paper and note down your goals, and make sure one of these goals is to become adaptable and open to learning new things. This puts you in a better position to provide better results. This will highly accelerate your organizational growth.  

Increase efficiency:

Time management is extremely important for an individual who is a part of an organization since they frequently manage multiple conflicting duties. Identify areas where you can improve your efficiency, not just in corporate operations, but also in your own obligations, and work toward those objectives. By doing this, you will have more time to improve other abilities and complete other tasks, as you become more efficient.

Build Dynamic teams:

The finest companies are mostly inclusive, with a varied range of people. To build a successful, well-rounded team, a smart leader can objectively determine the best individual for the position. It's difficult to build and maintain a high-performing, collaborative, innovative, and dynamic team, but it sure isn't impossible. It's not just about finding the appropriate people; it's about keeping them, empowering them as a team, and assisting them in defining how they'll carry out their responsibilities.

Improve your EQ/EI:

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a trait that many successful leaders possess. Self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, social regulation, and motivation are the five primary components of EQ. These characteristics aid in decision-making, goal-setting, and stress management, all of which are important aspects of leadership. While some leaders are born with a high EQ, it is something that can be developed.

Become a better mentor:

Leaders who are also mentors can bring effective outcome sake effective mentorship a priority when creating goals since your team looks up to you for coaching, counseling, and assistance. Make a growth plan. Try working with your team and think about ways they can achieve their goals. This should be backed up by regular feedback and advice after meetings in order to help them in the long run. Becoming a good mentor is all about showing your team that you care about their personal development by taking the time to listen to them and present them with new opportunities to challenge them.

How to build a successful leadership development strategy

People with followers are leaders. But have you ever wondered what makes a “good leader”? The answer is pretty simple; people with the skills that make others want to follow them are good leaders. When it comes to developing this skill in an organization, all that you would require is proper guidance combined with experience. 

Creating a leadership strategy requires a “systems approach” in order to identify the qualifications and caliber of leaders needed across the organization. 

In case you’re wondering what exactly a “systems approach” means- all you would need to know is that it is a simple approach based on the generalization that everything is interrelated and interdependent. A system is composed of related and dependent elements which when in interaction, forms a unitary whole.

In addition, this strategy will also include a thorough review of the leadership competencies required to support the organization's culture and desired leadership style.

Each organization has its own nuances. However, the following general framework always provides organizations with the best results:

Identifying goals and challenges:

You can start by asking yourself a few questions. What would be the biggest challenge your organization would have to overcome in the upcoming years? What are your goals or visions for the organization? What keeps you up at night?

Once you have the answer to these questions, you will be able to accordingly plan out a strategy that works best for you and your organization.

You can try reading annual reports and any business strategy documentation you can get your hands on, to create a solid foundation. Once you have done that, you could then conduct a round of executive interviews. Have conversations with every member in the executive team, either in groups or individually. This is also a really good way to build credibility and relationships, especially if you are a newbie to your organization.

Creating a vision and mission:

This step involves creating a vision statement. A vision statement is an aspirational description of what the team would like to achieve or accomplish in the future. The purpose of a vision statement is to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action. Organizations tend to normally jump right in without crossing this step from their checklist. This can be disastrous for the plain reason being- having a clear vision can give a team direction and inspiration, without which the team would be lost and have almost no idea as to where they are heading. 

Along with creating a vision statement, you might also want to consider preparing a  mission statement. A mission statement simply describes what you do, for who you do it, and how you plan on doing it. This even helps in putting a boundary around your team's activities , simultaneously guiding their day-to-day direction.

Developing measures and action plans:

Organizations often tend to neglect important components of a leadership development strategy , one of them being- creation and tracking of critical metrics. Developing suitable measures and coming up with the right action plan is undoubtedly one of the most important of these components. Keep in mind that this can get a little tricky, but not impossible. 

Coming up with an action plan can help you turn your visions into reality, and increase efficiency and accountability within an organization. An action plan is something that describes the way your organization will meet its objectives through detailed action steps that describe how and when these steps will be taken.

Reviewing with stakeholders:

This step is essential in order to make modifications and ask for commitment, involvement, and resources. 

It is very crucial to monitor against your action plan in order to ensure the quality of actions that are taking place; the key is to evaluate the effectiveness of the solutions you wish to implement against the agreed targets and performance indicators. 

For example- absenteeism, reports of interpersonal conflict, and so on. Accordingly, you can always make further decisions about further action or data gathering, if required. 

Benefits of leadership development programs

Leadership development programmes have numerous advantages. The key, though, is to establish a development programme that is tailored to the organization's culture and attempts to close leadership gaps. Organizations today are searching for people who can not only lead, but also foster emerging leaders who can contribute to the organization's objectives. 

Here are a few of the main benefits leadership development programs offer:

  • They help in enhancing employee engagement by creating leaders that can effectively lead teams.
  • A positive work culture is adopted, encouraging more employees to learn at the job and work towards acquiring leadership roles.
  • These programs churn out effective leaders who help businesses develop unique and efficient strategies that can drive organizations to new heights.
  • And finally, these programs help to create a positive image of leadership, giving emerging leaders an example to live by.

Leadership development with change agents and behavior nudges 

The main challenge as identified above is that conventional leadership development practices are rudimentary and superficial. For effective leadership development, organizations need to leverage behavioural change agents which can adapt to the personality of upcoming leaders and subtly promote the right behaviour and practices. 

The idea is to switch to solutions which focus on personalized leadership development with behavioural nudges. Put simply, this involves calibrating the best leadership practices to match the professional goals as well as strengths and weaknesses of the individual. Following this personalization, individuals gradually receive soft nudges to alter their behaviour in a way that will promote both their professional development and wellbeing as well as leadership capabilities. 

Such nudges are often found on platforms like SuperBeings and are based on people sciences and analytics. Their focus is not only short term leadership abilities, but rather, long term holistic transformation based on habit building. Invariably, they offer bite sized coaching nudges to enable prospective leaders form productive habits and work smarter, and in the way augment their leadership potential. 

Thus, organizations today need to break out of the conventional practices that are yielding ineffective leaders to adopt new age practices which work on the individual leadership fabric. The approach should not be bombarding the prospective leaders with best industry practices and expect them to absorb them instantly. Rather, give them time and the right tools to transform the way they work, live and lead.

Challenges in leadership development today

To reinvent the wheel, it is important to understand the challenges and gaps in the existing leadership development practices. To begin with, most leadership development practices have a one size approach which seldom takes in the different personality types that potential leaders possess. Invariably, the effectiveness is low because it is not customized to the needs of the learners. Generally, it becomes more of a tick in the box than effective leadership development.

Secondly, most organizations rely upon age-old learning management systems which further dilute leadership development. The entire focus is on theoretical learning and teaching with little or no exposure to practical application and coaching. Subsequently, this results in breeding ineffective leaders who are unable to drive confidence in their teams and command respect and credibility. 

Leadership is said to be an innate characteristic that cannot be learned. However, in order to be a great professional or businessperson, we must be good leaders and work at evoking the underlying leadership traits that we all possess, even if we aren't aware of it. And the only way to solve this is to create a development strategy.

Sufficient investment, the ability to apply learning effectively, the availability of role models, efficient use of technology, and a programme intended for continuous learning are some of the most important factors to success when developing existing and aspiring leaders.

Keep in mind that it is vital to think about your audience and the programme objective from the outset if you want to design leadership programmes that produce optimal results.

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