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These Leadership Development Trends Are Here to Stay. Is Your Company Ready?

Part 1 of ‘Piecing The People Strategy Together’

This is the first chapter of a short series about the importance and impact of leadership development. We’ll explore the challenges that organizations and their leaders face – and the opportunities to engage your people proactively.

The influx of workers from younger generations coupled with a wave of emerging and disruptive technologies is driving unprecedented change at organizations across nearly every industry.

To survive, it’s vital that organizations develop leaders with the skills and resilience to successfully compete in this new landscape. But it’s probably not going to happen using old approaches. Instead, the most successful organizations are going to adapt their leadership development strategies to this new reality.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest trends in the leadership and development space — and how smart companies and their leaders are evolving with these changes.

Preparing For Constant Transformation

The business environment has never been more challenging. Constant change is the new normal — particularly when it comes to technology — which requires dynamic leaders who can help companies navigate that change. Emerging tech like automation and artificial intelligence is only going to intensify these challenges.

In the Harvard Business School 2018 State of Leadership Development report, 54 percent of survey respondents said their organization is currently undergoing transformation. Another 32 percent reported that their organizations had completed a transformation in the previous three years. This is the new reality.

Interestingly, when you dig deeper into the Harvard report, it’s clear that leadership development is crucial to navigating a transformation successfully. Companies that say leadership development is critical to their success are 29 times more likely to have a successful transformation than those organizations where leadership is not viewed as important, the study found. “Organizations that don’t proactively reinvent their L&D strategy will have difficulty adapting to change, and that could put their survival in question,” the report says.

Our take: Engaging leaders of all levels who can effectively lead change and build strong teams will increase organizational impact and capacity. Creating a leadership development strategy can seem daunting, so begin by assessing your current talent pool. What are the talent gaps? Who are your high-potentials? Where are the biggest opportunities to grow? Using this information will help you identify where to put your efforts first.

Better Support For Accidental Leaders

The Center for Creative Leadership’s recent report on Emerging Trends for Transformative Leaders report found that “accidental leaders” — those successful individual contributors thrust into leadership roles — was the top leadership issue identified by executives.

“Companies are moving so fast that we perpetuate the bad practice of taking an individual contributor and assuming that they will make a great leader,” the report says. “Almost invariably, they won’t. They need support and training.”

In fact, the report says 60 percent of frontline leaders reported they have never received any training for their new role. This is a critical issue to solve given that first-time managers are often an organization’s largest subset of leaders.

Our take: Skills such as self-awareness, political savviness, communication skills, motivating and coaching others, and learning agility are critical to leadership success. Although they are not always intuitive for new leaders, they are critical to leading a team. Learning and development programs should focus on helping emerging leaders build these skills and more.

Meeting The Changing Needs of Younger Workers

Millennials now make up the largest generation of the U.S. workforce, with Gen Z right behind. These workers are both untethered from the idea of long-term employment with one company and more inclined to stay to work for companies with dynamic cultures and a dedication to professional development. 

Organizations need to take real steps to better understand the expectations and outlook millennials have about leadership development. For starters, this generation of workers doesn’t seem too impressed by what many companies are offering to help them grow professionally.

The millennials who responded in the Harvard survey had much more negative perceptions of their company’s leadership development programs than their older colleagues. 

Only about half of the younger workers said they see strong alignment between learning and development content and the business issues their organization is facing, such as a digital transformation, compared to nearly three-quarters of respondents 56 or over. Millennials in the survey also wanted to see improvements and innovations in leadership development programs at much higher rates than older colleagues.

Our take: This data shows it’s clear that leadership development is going to be a major factor in the recruitment and retention of top young talent moving forward. Organizations who fail to develop a modern strategy to foster and guide emerging leaders to more responsibility will be left behind.

Younger gen workers are empowered by having the opportunity to transform an organization, team and themselves through trial and error. Give your younger leaders the chance to make decisions and take action — and most importantly, support them throughout the process with encouragement and guidance.

Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.

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