The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.
Warren G. Bennis
Organizations that focus on leadership development strengthen their ability to compete successfully in their markets by enhancing the capabilities of the people who will make decisions on strategy, execution and people. Well-developed leaders who possess a broad skill set are more capable of doing this in an environment characterized by technological advances, globalization (which is driving increased complexity) and hyper-competition. Taking this landscape into consideration, three trends organizations should consider when designing their programs are:
- The Ability to Lead Change
- The Approach to Leadership Development
- How to Prepare Future Leaders
When considering the pace and intensity of change in today’s economy leaders must be adaptable, change capable and have in-depth knowledge of successful leadership practices. To enable leaders to thrive, organizations should ensure their leaders are proficient in leading change by providing resources and tools that facilitate knowledge and skill development in change management and leadership practices. Some risks of not doing this to take into consideration are that if an organization’s understanding of leadership practices and how to successfully lead change are not sufficiently developed, change efforts necessary to adapt to the business environment will not have the desired impact on organizational performance. One way to enable leaders is to update existing programs or introduce leadership development programs that strengthen the proficiency of people to meet these challenges at all levels in an organization by teaching about leadership practices and how to effectively navigate change.
The Approach to Leadership Development
Methods used to develop leaders continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of professionals and organizations. Currently, the traditional boot camp style of development is being challenged. Additionally, adding leadership development to the existing duties of top performers (who are typically found in these programs) without adjusting current objectives creates a number of legitimate challenges and this approach is not enabling firms to consistently develop their leaders. Approaches organizations can take to address these concerns are to:
- Provide development that meets the needs of the organization and those being developed that is engaging, relevant to the organization and has demonstrated the ability to develop leaders who create successful teams and deliver desired results.
- Enable developing leaders to strike a balance between current duties and their development efforts.
Preparing Future Leaders
As the global economy has rebounded, firms’ investment in developing front-line leaders has increased to meet short-term demands and long-term needs as the baby boomers age and exit the workforce. Considering that front-line managers make up over half of the management ranks and are responsible for managing and leading more than 75% of an organization’s personnel, it is imperative that those responsible for leadership development adopt a ‘first-time right’ mentality because leaders who emerge from leadership development programs who are not proficient prevent people, teams and their companies from achieving peak performance. Data from a recent survey of managers from 147 companies conducted by the Association for Talent and Development underscores the ‘first time right’ mindset that is necessary because the study showed that more than half of the respondents felt they were not adequately trained or developed to be successful in their roles as first-line managers. The same survey showed that 80% of employees felt their manager was not as effective as he/she should be as their manager. This is not an insignificant challenge facing the workforce, which means that resources of time, money and people need to be invested wisely and add tangible value to the culture and performance of an organization. Preparing individual contributors to become effective managers and leaders who can demonstrate successful leadership practices, are capable of leading change and have strong business acumen will put organizations in the best possible position to achieve their goals and objectives on a consistent basis.
So, the need for developing leaders’, and aspiring leaders’, ability to be successful at influencing the performance of people and teams is essential to the success of organizations aspiring to create winning cultures and sustainable performance. By developing leaders who understand the essential practices of effective leadership, possess well-developed business acumen and are capable of leading change organizations can set themselves up for peak performance that is sustainable and meets the needs of all stakeholders involved.