Behind every aspect of a business lies a human element. People keep the business running. They make decisions, solve problems, overcome challenges, and build strategies for the continued growth of the enterprise. Since people have such a profound impact on the organization, strong leaders are needed at every level to focus people’s efforts in the right direction and maximize the contribution of every individual. Effective leadership is essential, but leaders don’t grow without time, guidance, and practice. Organizations have to decide if they will invest the needed resources in their leaders and make leadership development a key initiative in their strategic plans.
The Consequences of Underestimating Leadership Development
Leadership development is often minimized, overlooked, or undervalued. Worse still is when leaders are given lip service without real action to back up their development due to increased talent coupled with a diminishing development budget. The money corporations are spending on leadership development continues to decrease even though recent reports indicate that 91% of CEOS say they need to strengthen soft skills within their organizations.
Companies rarely struggle to find people with the right technical skills; the challenge they face is finding people with the leadership skills they need to develop the business, respond to increasing customer demands, offer innovative solutions to real business issues, and think strategically. In today’s competitive global environment, leaders need to be able to think in a creative and proactive way, overcome obstacles, and guide the organization into the future, as well as helping it achieve success today.
Unfortunately, some managers create internal barriers by holding onto their top performers rather than looking for ways to advance their hi-po’s careers in other areas of the company. While trying to keep high-performing individual contributors for themselves may benefit managers initially, it also limits professional growth, reduces leadership bench strength, and hurts the larger organization through reduced productivity and increased turnover of top performers.
The “People Agenda”
Organizations that focus on identifying potential and developing talent will position themselves for long-term growth and success. Alain Bejjani, CEO of the Majid Al Futtaim Group, firmly believes that companies have to succeed with their “people agenda.” Beijani believes that organizations now require top-notch leadership capability and a level of sophistication that is much higher than it was 10–15 years ago—and that leadership ability will be what sets organizations apart. In a recent article, McKinsey addressed the technology-driven demands that leaders now face: all aspects of an organization are needing to shift their focus and strategies due to the rise in artificial intelligence, big data, and digital solutions.
Preparing Leaders for the Future
Preparing leaders to meet these dynamic needs cannot be accomplished without consistent, skill-oriented leadership development. Even experienced leaders won’t be fully prepared to meet the requirements of the future without ongoing training and development. Leaders need an arsenal of diverse skills that they can draw upon to engage the modern workforce. Karen Kocher from Microsoft said this: “If the organization or institution hasn’t woken up to the fact that strategically, they better start building these talent pipelines, they are going to be in a bad situation 2–3 years from now.”
So how can a company adequately prepare their leaders for tomorrow and make leadership development a strategic advantage for the organization? Here are some tips:
- Develop a focused strategy for human-capital development.
- Identify individual contributors with leadership potential and personal aspirations to fill a leadership role—and who have what it takes to lead others in addition to being technical experts.
- Create a business case for the importance of leadership development and cascade that message throughout the organization.
- Create a learning organization by putting processes in place that support leadership development and career advancement.
- Remember that developing people and preparing them to lead others in the modern business world is an ongoing process and takes time. Seek to solve one pain point at a time and build out your leadership-development strategy from there.
As organizations seek to capitalize on technological advances and differentiate themselves from the competition, strong and capable leaders will continue to be in exceptionally high demand. Leader learning and growth is paramount—a critical strategic initiative. If you would like to discuss your organization’s current needs for building leaders and creating a culture of learning and development, contact CMOE today.
About the Author
Polly is a Vice President for CMOE and specializes in organizational management and executive coaching. Polly also has years of experience in sales and marketing, strategic leadership, leadership principles and execution. She is dedicated to listening and understanding the goals of clients.