8 Innovations to Develop Leaders

Perspectives > Leadership Development

A company’s leadership layer is often made up of individuals who rose through the ranks to find themselves in positions of responsibility with no clear idea of how to fulfil the expectations of their new role – or, indeed, what those expectations are. An important purpose of leadership development is to help such individuals hone their skills to become purposeful, impactful and inspiring leaders, or perhaps to decide that leadership is not the right career path for them.

The idea that leadership development is a universally applicable formula no longer holds true. In a complex world where expectations change rapidly, answers aren’t always ready to hand. Practice must accompany theory to forge leaders who are prepared for the challenges of a dynamic environment.

Here are 8 ideas that can help.

Experiential Learning

While most companies recognize the importance of experiential learning to developing their leaders, the challenge is to work out how and where to apply these learnings as best practices, encourage the participating leaders to continue their journey of learning and development, and ensure that these learnings trickle down through the organization.

Reflection

Self-reflection is an asset in anyone who aspires to lead others, but it can easily descend into navel-gazing. An environment in which leaders receive feedback from colleagues at all levels is vital to course correction, self-improvement and the ability to inspire others. By learning to accept, dispassionately evaluate and incorporate the best feedback in the manner most appropriate to business and personal needs, leaders can continue to evolve.

Desire to Transform

Openness to transformation is an essential characteristic of a good leader, and one that can be cultivated. By thinking about one’s leadership purpose, journey and the necessity for driving change, leaders can support each other, their teams and the organization as a whole to develop the resilience to withstand the VUCA business environment.

Group and Peer Learning

Peer and group coaching methods embedded in an integrated coaching environment are extremely effective in maintaining motivation levels and building a sense of unified purpose. The group focuses on the organization as a whole, and the worst competitive impulses of the members of the group are reduced. By stepping back and allowing the group to find its own momentum, HR plays a vital role in helping leaders to help themselves, each other and the whole organization.

Digital Leadership

Digital transformation is destroying traditional leadership hierarchies and creating new ideas for collaboration. Individuals in positions of responsibility may have to demonstrate leadership without the benefit of a formal designation. Leadership development strategies are compelled to adapt to meet the needs of high-potential technical and functional talent who can influence and impact the organization outside the traditional hierarchy, and whose work complements and supplements the more recognizable leadership positions.

Continuity and Integration

Sending one’s high-potential talent to a ‘workout’ or ‘seminar’ is the recognized way of developing leaders, but in these VUCA times, lessons learnt in the alien environment of a resort or training center may not be enough. Individual learning plans, designed with a focus on the leadership behaviors the organization deems most important, are a great way to support, encourage and groom the next generation of leadership to grow and apply their learnings on the job, and imbue their teams with those traits while they do so.

Diversification

Diversity and inclusion are good for companies. This isn’t particularly new or insightful. But in the matter of leadership development, it’s not just the appointment of diverse individuals to top positions that counts – it’s also vital to expose leaders to diverse environments, peer groups, and challenges so that these individuals gain a holistic view of the company, its people, its operations and the business environment. The design of leadership competency frameworks must be continually renewed and refreshed to assist the personal and professional development of a company’s leaders.

Building Resilience

Command and Control is out, Coaching and Teaching is in. The ability to withstand hard knocks, learn from them and get back to work afterwards is no longer a preferred characteristic – it is an essential characteristic of both individuals and the organization. Recognizing leaders who demonstrate resilience as role models goes hand in hand with leadership training interventions that talk about VUCA, as does recognizing employees who live this value – whether or not they are in positions of leadership responsibility. This means making peace with the occasional failure and developing the ability to analyze what went wrong without necessarily apportioning blame, or without taking a crime/punishment view of events that don’t play out according to plan.

The one consistent threat through all these ideas is that leadership behavior, employee interactions and the well-being of the company are inextricably linked, and if done well, lead to better productivity and performance. At the heart of modern leadership development is the philosophy: ‘Empowerment is the new management.’

COD believes that transformative leadership, in a culture of empowerment, inclusion, employee engagement and performance focus, is more important than it’s ever been. Talk to us about how you can cultivate the high-impact leaders your company needs.