Leadership development has a number of benefits when you make it your organization’s No. 1 priority. We’re living in unprecedented times. With heightened pressure around an uncertain future; intensified economic, social and political changes; tenuous employer-worker relationships; and the accelerated pace of technological adoption, businesses need their leaders to step up.
Eighty percent of respondents in a study by Deloitte believed 21st-century leaders face “unique and new requirements.” The same number of respondents rated leadership as a high priority for their organizations, but only half (41%) of them acknowledged that their organizations were “ready or very ready to meet their leadership requirements.”
My company provides leadership development and coaching solutions through our platform, and from my perspective, qualitative leadership development is of prime importance. Organizations must create a new breed of leaders who are capable of successfully steering their organizations through complex operating environments and ensuring business continuity in times of crisis.
What’s the purpose of having leadership development initiatives?
Development initiatives can create leaders who perform effectively on the job. I’ve found they can help boost employee morale and motivation, and they create leaders who have a commitment to the growth of the organization. Employees who have mastered leadership skills are able to make sound decisions, build strong teams and ultimately contribute to the bottom line.
You might find that having a leadership development program is also a cost-effective recruitment strategy for grooming leaders from within the ranks and developing a succession pipeline, rather than hiring new talent from the outside.
Statistically speaking, research suggests that leadership training programs can contribute to a 25% improvement in learning; 28% improvement in on-the-job leadership behaviors; 20% improvement in overall job performance; 8% improvement in subordinate outcomes; and 25% improvement in organizational outcomes. Developing the leaders in your company could also lead to:
• Improved bottom-line financial performance: While leadership development might not directly impact the bottom line, I’ve found employees who participate often become more motivated, develop more positive performance-oriented behaviors and become more vested in the organization’s success. This can create an internal culture over the long-term that may ultimately lead to improved financial performance.
• Attracting and retaining talent: Leadership development equips managers with the skills they need to identify, nurture and retain talent, which is mission-critical in the current business environment. Having the right talent in the right places is crucial for sustainable organizational success. Selecting the right people and honing their talent through development programs is also a strategy businesses can use to set themselves apart and stay ahead.
• Positive impacts on leaders’ abilities in your organization: Through development, participants can expect to apply new ways of thinking to improve productivity, engage effectively with both internal and external stakeholders, reduce talent churn and create a high-performing work culture.
• Uncovering leadership potential: Leadership training can help you identify new and upcoming leaders. Whereas leadership skills are trainable, talent is hard to find and keep. Training helps bring potential leaders to the fore while motivating them to continue to be a part of the organization.
What are different approaches to leadership development?
Contemporary leadership development involves a few different approaches. Aspiring leaders can choose to work with one approach or more at any stage of their career progression, depending on what’s ideal at any given time.
• Coaching: A number of companies (my own included) provide leadership development programs, and through this, I’ve seen coaching can enable leaders to make sense of business challenges and provide clarity and a pathway for progress or a breakthrough.
• Mentoring: A mentor can provide advice and counseling but doesn’t provide coaching support. Typically, your mentor can be your superior within the organization. They can also be an external mentor, someone who works outside your organization but has specific skills and experience that can be beneficial to you.
• Sponsorship: Sponsors are individuals you might or might not know who have influence in shaping the progression of your career. The best way to get sponsors is to consistently show up and overdeliver. You will be identified, followed up on and recommended by those who matter.
• Cohort-based learning: In cohort-based learning, several individuals (as opposed to a single participant) come together to learn and collaborate on business assignments. Group learning can improve the level of participation and engagement, which, in turn, positively affects the learning experience.
What should you know before you start?
Finding the right leadership development initiatives for your needs is crucial. Reflect on the following to narrow down your choices and select the best-fit program for your organization:
• Is there a structured plan for development that includes an analysis of your needs, competency frameworks at an individual/organizational level, personalized assessments, feedback and measurable data for actionable insights?
• Does your development program meet your organization’s specific goals and fit your unique internal culture? Cultural fit is critical to building leaders who are aligned with the organization’s way of functioning.
• How does the program measure up in terms of price and time commitment versus the expected return on investment? Is there a means to measure the impact?
A leadership development program is an investment. You should have clearly defined goals for your leadership training. Having empowered leaders with the right mix of skills at the helm is the need of the hour to be competitive and agile in response to changing market trends.
Dr. Andrew Rahaman is the co-founder of bluSPARC™ a learning and development company with coaching at its core. Drawing on extensive experience in curriculum design for executive education, Andrew is a trusted advisor and coach in talent management, leader development, and executive coaching both domestically and internationally. He works with clients to develop leadership capacity, high-performance teams, and provides tools and processes that enable organizations to meet their strategic initiatives and maximize growth opportunities. Andrew holds a doctorate from The George Washington University and is a contributor to Forbes Business Council. Andrew can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.