Leadership development is a key priority for almost all companies that we engage with. No surprise there considering that TrainingIndustry.com says that leadership training is a $366 billion global industry!
So what are a few elements to keep in mind while designing your Leadership Development Program (LDP)?
In order to be truly effective, leaders need to have a good sense of where they stand. Different psychometric tools like MBTI and Emergenetics can play a very useful role in achieving this. For those leading others, a 360 degree feedback often plays a crucial role in identifying areas needing development and even blind spots. Senior leadership development programs can also include how they come across as leaders to others.
Success for leaders depends on their team’s performance rather than their own. Leaders hence need to be trained on how to define accountability and rigorously hold direct reports to those commitments, so that everyone can succeed and produce the results they need.
We live in turbulent times. Terms like “VUCA” and “Black Sawn” have entered the lexicon of everyone in a leadership role. How leaders manage change and lead their teams through these changes is increasingly becoming a sine qua non for leadership – ergo your LDP needs to have a component of how to lead change.
Leaders increasingly work in matrix organizations where they need to influence others without having authority over them. As they scale up the hierarchy, they need to work with other leaders and be adept in the art of subtle negotiations and building relationships. Knowing how to influence others without using authority or hierarchy, and getting things done should hence be a part of your LDP program.
While communication is an essential skill that leaders must learn to perfect, simply ‘talking’ is not communication. The language of leadership is coaching. Knowing how to connect with people through both their hearts and their minds, and growing them through gentle guidance, questioning and coaching conversations is an essential skill for Leaders today.
Leaders constantly communicate. It happens at all times and in many forms – be it a large presentation, one on one conversations, phone calls, texts, mails or video conferencing. Although it is not a new skill, poor communication can have very bad repercussions. Hence, how to present with impact is a key skill that every LDP should include.
While all the above points refer to the content of the LDP, a few points relating to the structure of the intervention, also needs to be kept in mind. The 70-20-10 leadership development model is a good lens to view LDP
interventions. Based on 30 years of study of how executives learn to lead, it rests on the belief that leadership is learned through doing. There’s plenty of evidence to support that belief.
As the 70-20-10 name implies, the learning model calls for 70 percent of development to consist of on-the-job learning, supported by 20 percent coaching and mentoring, and 10 percent classroom training. Hence, a few other components that your LDP should include are:
Assigning an important project, assignment or initiative to employees being groomed for leadership is a great way for them to practice increased responsibility and accountability that comes with leadership. In many ways, it is like a dry run before the real deal. Exposing leaders to real challenges and testing their mettle in real business situations gives learners an opportunity to put into practice everything that they have learnt.
While most leadership skills are developed gradually through life, the learning curve can be accelerated by implementing volunteer leadership development. Look for opportunities to assign learners to an industry or professional organization to build experience influencing others.
One of the perks of working in Google is that besides being exposed to tech leaders, there are often talks with celebrities and other thought leaders. Why is Google doing this? Strategically exposing leaders to other leaders allows them to discuss, learn, and understand the perspectives other leaders bring in when addressing common challenges.
This kind of immersion is one of the most effective innovations in leader development. It breaks the mental model that people carry and opens their mind to other opportunities.
A variety of experiences are essential to achieving a balanced development of leaders. Such experiences that significantly stretch and challenge a leader are also called crucible moments. No classroom experience can provide this kind of learning. It is such authentic challenges and the learning from those experiences that develops leadership in the real sense. Such learning can have a lasting impact on how a person manages and leads.
Leaders are needed at every level of an organization right from the entry level to the executive levels. However, make sure that the focus of your Leadership Development Program run for different levels is different. One lens to look at LDPs is through:
Regardless of which level the LDP is pitched at – it is very important to ensure that it is designed and communicated in a way that seems like it is fun and exciting. One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is assuming that senior level programs need to be “serious.”
Always remember laughter is no enemy to learning.
As Lewis Carroll said in the lovable book, Alice in Wonderland,
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road can take you there.”
Don’t design your leadership program as a one-off intervention or as a series of disconnected ones. Each person enrolling for a LDP should be given a sense of embarking on a journey. Leadership development after all is not a destination to be reached, but a lifelong endeavour.
On that note, bon voyage to you on your journey to design the perfect LDP.
Fair winds and following seas!