Five Leadership Development Tactics of Top Companies
While we cannot accurately predict the future, we can make an attempt to invent it. Effective leadership is an essential component in a company’s planning for a successful and profitable future. In a complex and competitive globalized environment where change is a constant, leaders have to establish a clear path for their company and staff even when the indicators are vague and uncertain.
Studies and surveys have been conducted to identify the characteristics and strategies of companies or organizations which have the best leaders. These studies confirm that there are several core tactics that any company must adopt if it wants to effectively navigate the future. The following are some of the more important ones.
- Formal Leadership Development Program
“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” (Vince Lombardi)
As part of a talent development program which applies to employees at all levels, a company must have a dedicated track to attract, select, and groom future leaders who have not only demonstrated a commitment to the company’s progress but who also possess a personality and approach that has proven to generate engagement. Identifying potential leaders early in their career and providing them with the appropriate development opportunities is the key, according to Jeff Welton, Managing Director at Verity International Limited.
- Assessment, Measurement and Evaluation
“Measure twice and cut once.” (Proverb)
Before choosing future leaders, a company should determine, at a fundamental level, what leadership roles, skills and attributes are necessary to ensure present and future success. These factors need to be re-examined over time to ensure that they match changes in the business environment and in the organization’s culture and strategy. It follows that a leadership development program must incorporate measurement at each stage of the process.
Assessments should be performed at the selection stage to determine a candidate’s potential and periodically throughout a leader’s tenure to determine areas needing reinforcement or further development. Evaluations should take into account a person’s strengths, weaknesses, competencies, values, experiences, and cultural fit.
Obviously, some of the most important measurements will relate to the specific results of a person’s actions. But accomplishments may be objective and/or subjective in nature. One critical assessment, for example, should involve a consideration of the quantity and quality of important relationships and networking connections which the person has established internally and externally with stakeholders, clients, and others.
- High Touch Training and Learning Initiatives
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” (Pablo Picasso)
Having determined the critical leadership roles, functions and attributes required now and in the future, a company must construct relevant educational and practical experiences for existing and potential leaders. In addition to traditional “classroom-based” training and development opportunities, a company should craft targeted career paths which entail particular assignments and projects to prepare people for critical leadership roles or to enhance their performance in current leadership roles.
Jeff Welton states that while high-level theory and concepts provide foundational knowledge, leadership abilities will only be tested and honed through their application to real-life situations. He states that top talent needs to be assigned a range of tasks which provide new experiences, including for example: analytical and people leadership roles, customer facing and non-customer facing roles, sales and operational leadership roles. People need to be taken outside of their comfort zone.
Applied learning and interaction with staff throughout the organization will contribute to the depth and breadth of knowledge of any leader. It will also foster the development and maintenance of critical relationships with colleagues.
- Self-Reflection Opportunities
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” (Søren Kierkegaard)
Self-reflection is a process of examining and achieving a deeper understanding of, among other things, one’s experiences, values, beliefs, and leadership style (e.g. style of communication and relationship-building). One cannot underestimate the effectiveness of self-reflection in improving future performance, decision-making, and satisfaction. However, a company has to create opportunities for such reflection among leaders in spite of schedules which are packed with tasks, projects, presentations, and meetings.
Leaders must be encouraged to better understand their strengths, weaknesses, successes, failures and blind spots through explorative discussion and constructive feedback. One-on-one mentoring by peers and coaching by external experts can serve to heighten learning and self-awareness. The kinds of questions that may be addressed include: what worked or did not work and why; do my experiences relate to other situations I have been in or might face in the future; and how can I use the knowledge gained from my self-examination to address new challenges?
- Resiliency Through Diversity and Inclusion
“In the natural world, life builds from the bottom up, and it builds in resilience and multiple uses.” (Janine Benyus)
A company and its individual staff can become more resilient if the culture is inclusive and open to diverse perspectives and insights. By being encouraged to nurture such an attitude in themselves and their company, the leaders of today will enhance their own ability to be flexible and adaptable in the face of the expected and unexpected. It is critical, then, that they take an active role in a company’s talent management program.
As Jeff Welton observes, the leaders of today are accountable for “building the bench” for the future by taking deliberate actions which provide prospective leaders with specific growth opportunities and continuing support. In order to map out and implement a profitable future for their company, they must help identify, engage and prepare high-functioning employees with varying backgrounds and wide-ranging skill sets.