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Can You Reshape Your Leadership Development Approach?

By Jan Rijken, Director of Learning Institute, CrossKnowledge

Jan Rijken, Director of Learning Institute, CrossKnowledge

Organizations today face numerous challenges to operate efficiently and maintain a competitive advantage in times of change. Change requires new behaviors, routines, methods, customers, perspectives, and new technology. It is upon company leadership to provide the proper direction to help their teams and employees navigate these challenges and adapt appropriately. Improving alignment between the achievement of business goals and leaders’ skills starts with the creation of a business strategy, followed by a leadership strategy, followed by a leadership development strategy.

Leadership today is not delivering on board level expectations: 71% say their leaders are not ready to lead for the future; only 25% confirm they had a ready successor identified for one out of 10 critical leader positions; 81% indicate that their company’s leaders are not effective at developing leaders. In addition, research shows there are issues in developing leaders in time (in the role and for the role) and in a consistent and cost-effective way. There’s a growing need for organizations to completely rethink how they develop their leaders, reinforced by the fact that leadership itself is often changing from hierarchy to network structures.

How Leadership Development Can Deliver its Promise – Redefining the Strategy

It is important for L&D to develop a clearer understanding of how leaders in their organization prefer to learn vs how they are learning now. The current leadership development strategy needs to be adapted; define the target audience; identify key KPIs; provide assessment capabilities; provide a just-in-time LD-offer based on the required future leadership skills and offer a personalized curriculum. Classroom training today is still the dominant method in leadership development and adding technology-based, online learning components to the mix of leadership development activities makes it possible to develop leaders at all levels faster and more flexibly compared to using traditional face-to-face solutions. This can be a crucial advantage for time-constrained leaders and for organizations with geographically dispersed operations. Blended and modular learning enables L&D to respond to the specific needs of the target audience, while at the same time reducing transaction time and costs. This greater flexibility makes it possible to personalize LD activities and tailor them to the specific challenges facing leaders.

High-Impact Leadership Development Strategy Features and Barriers

It is essential that L&D teams-up and collaborates with senior executives to define the ambitions and objectives for their leadership development initiatives. In parallel, the L&D-MD leaders need to become aware of the success criteria and barriers to high-impact leadership development in order to optimize their blended design for a future-proof Leadership Development plan. The outcome is a high-impact Leadership Development strategy that offers:

• A framework to develop leaders with global consistency of key leadership capabilities across countries and functions

• A just-in-time approach ensuring all critical & future leadership capabilities are developed and embedded in daily work.

• An opportunity to change the leadership development from hierarchy/program based to a systematic and holistic process with personalized learning

A re-shaped Leadership Development framework stands out from most current LD-curricula because it makes a clear distinction in 4 leadership development solutions ‘columns’, offered in parallel to the relevant leadership levels. To ensure that they add value at the individual leadership level, there is a strong link to the organizational performance cycle and assessments are foundational. The topics in the 4 distinct leadership development columns are identified through an annual needs analysis process and academic research reports on future leadership skills and consist of:

1. Organizational transformation programs: strategic transformation programs enabling the organizational strategy and offered to the different leadership levels>“prepare for change”. Key characteristics: link to org-strategy / offered for all leaders / top-down invitation / intensive &major investment /blended

2. Career programs: broad and long (6-12 months) LD-programs preparing selected leaders for their next leadership role>“prepare for tomorrow”. Key characteristics: link to talent-strategy / offer for progressing leaders / by-invitation / duration 6-12 months / major investment /blended

3. Performance modules: stand-alone and short (max 3 days) Topic-focused leadership modules to upskill leaders at an individual level based on performance needs >” prepare for today”. Key characteristics: link to performance cycle / self-registration / duration 1-3 days / limited investment / short time-to-competence / blended

4. Digital Academy: 24/7 available and short learning nuggets to support leaders at all levels in handling immediate business issues >“prepare for now”. Key characteristics: link to immediate issues / self-registration / duration 2-15 mins / limited investment – scalable / short time-to-performance / digital

Image of the Re-shaped (Blended) Leadership Development Framework

The promise and opportunities are there to catch. To which extent can leaders ‘own’ their personal development, are they ready for the new learning era? Is L&D able to achieve senior exec buy-in for this transition and the investments in learning technology? Does L&D have the right skills and mindset to design, implement and manage blended learning(5)? Can leaders be encouraged to adopt new ways of learning to develop them and their employees in a supportive learning climate? How do you market the new LD-approach to all leaders?

These questions highlight the need to establish structured L&D governance with senior leader sponsorship for the new Leadership Development strategy and invest in developing L&D capabilities; roles (manage communities, support workplace learning, marketing & communication, data-analytics). In addition, best practice organizations show professionalizing communication and marketing for the new Leadership can boost the impact of learner participation, engagement, and performance.

Organizations need to rethink on how to develop all their leaders in order to prepare them for organizational change, their next career step, improving today’s performance and equipping them to solve immediate leadership issues! Re-shaping corporate Leadership Development strategy can deliver these ambitions but implies a massive transformation from today’s dominant career-step and face-to-face learning approach. This requires skills and courage from Leadership Development leaders and a clear vision of how to structure and offer a best-practice leadership development framework to deliver on the promise.

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