Time and again, the term "leadership development" is vaguely defined, confusing both employees and top management, preventing organisations from developing effective leaders.
Unable to grasp the true meaning results in individuals mistaking the leadership development program (LDP) for management training and overlooking the context. Moreover, leaders and program organisers often detach the learning from real-life experience, making classroom training inapplicable. On top of that, organisations also neglect the evaluation process of training effectiveness or mindset assessment.
These are just a few common mistakes made during the development of a leadership program.
Top three critical factors for effective LDP within the organisations
In a 2016 survey on leadership development from Borderless, which compiled insights from approximately 1,000 senior executives from multiple industries, the results once again confirm leadership development is critical and is considered as "an enabler of business strategy and growth."
The survey also shed light on the most influencing factors in ensuring the success of leadership development initiatives. Among all answers, the top three critical factors are:
1. Support from top management (57%)
It is not uncommon to see the lack of buy-ins from senior management during the development of leadership programs. Some leaders even struggle with not knowing how to support their teammates' career path or giving very little guidance to their members after a training session. The lack of support from top management can prevent organisations from reaching their full potential.
Management should collaborate with HR to create a learning culture that clearly defines goals, processes, and practices to boost the overall productivity and competencies.
Having a learning culture encourages continuous learning and the knowledge and skill-sharing among employees, which in turn, empower the organisation to be more sustainable as well as more adaptable.
2. An organisational focus on people and talent management (48%)
The focal point of a talent management strategy is people and its ultimate goal is to create a higher-performing workforce. Every organisation wants to attract and recruit the highest skilled talent. Having a talent management strategy and a well laid out leadership development plan ensures companies achieve this objective.
Organisations can attract higher quality talents if they have a dedicated strategy to develop prospective employees' leadership competencies. The current employees also feel more motivated and inspired to thrive with the organisation because they are given adequate opportunities to grow professionally.
An effective LDP also calls for openly sharing information about high potential individuals and their career paths across the organisation, which can be used to aid succession planning.
3. Having sufficient resources (44%)
Resources in this context refer to budget, time, and staffing.
Facing a volatile, complex, uncertain and ambiguous world today, many organisations neglect to nurture their leaders due to "time constraints, being understaffed and no budget."
The "limited resources" issue needs to be openly discussed among stakeholders in order to come up with workable solutions. Therefore, prior to drafting the content of your LDP and defining the business direction, consider these two questions:
- Are LDP goals aligned with the company's strategic priorities?
- How might these goals be affected due to limited resources?
If the resources are limited, it is always wise to be mindful and keep a close focus on activities that generate the greatest return. Companies should also audit all expenses to determine wasteful areas or pull resources from another function if necessary. Be open to different methods to organise a leadership development program, even when companies have limited resources.
Three tips for building an effective leadership development program
If you're thinking of designing a systematic LDP, here are some tips for you to get started.
Tip 1: Define your target audience
Talents in managerial positions are not the only prime targets in LDP. Even though organisations should develop a leadership plan for every level, that does not mean every person should be put through training.
Therefore, it is critical to identify candidates that are in need of further development first and foremost.
The next step is considering both the short and long term strategic goals and then define leadership profiles detailing the competencies you are looking for in an ideal leader.
All in all, don't forget to ensure that every staff is aware of the LDP and its progress.
Tip 2: Understand the purpose of your LDP
Your employees will ponder whether it is worth their time participating in the LDP along with a variety of other concerns, such as the reason for the organisation to decide on this method of training instead of others, the benefits of this program, the stakeholders of the program, etc.
To prepare for any possible concerns from the employees, and to prevent your plan from being derailed, organisations need to determine whether the program will address:
- the gaps between the business' current state and its goals
- the leadership gaps, or
- the skill gaps.
Understanding the purpose of the LDP will make it easier for organisations and leaders to formulate the appropriate training content which can also leverage insights from the regular performance reviews, assessments, surveys, interviews, etc.
This is also where personnel involved in the program sit down to agree on the objectives and the learning experience of their members.
Moreover, some functions of the business have a more urgent need for "developed" leaders. To prioritise the demands based on urgency, companies can utilise the needs analysis framework.
Tip 3: Measure results
More often than not, companies skip this phase entirely despite it being a significant part of an effective LDP.
A few examples of quantifiable results to measure the success of an LDP can be:
- The number of participants successfully completed the program.
- The number of participants have been promoted.
- The increase in productivity determined by achieved KPIs, targets, goals etc.
- The impact of the newly obtained skills and responsibilities have on the participants' daily tasks.
In order to "grow" effective leaders, organisations should encourage the LDP participants to work outside of their comfort zones. The ability to quickly adapt and respond to the changing environment is also another measure of success.