Building a pipeline of leadership talent to execute strategy today and tomorrow – there’s nothing more essential to organisational success. The selection and development of good leadership is the only sustainable advantage.
The average company turns roughly 25% of its management positions every year. This makes it imperative that you develop a strategy for the leadership talent pipeline within your organisation that drives your performance today and in the future.
The best performing organisations take time to design a leadership development process that builds the skills to execute strategy and aligns leaders to the business context according to the needs of their role.
Those companies that link their leadership development strategy to their business strategy know that just as the ‘work of leaders’ differs in breadth and intensity by leadership level, so do effective development experiences.
Here are four ‘development spotlights’ for each level of leader within your company:
The First-Line Leader
Picture of a Manager: First-line leaders develop certainty, confidence, and higher levels of performance when they can see what the transition from individual contributor to manager entails. High-performing organisations reveal this picture and allow time for individuals to reflect on and plan against their current strengths and vulnerabilities.
Engagement: It is critical to provide opportunities for significant practice and application of new skills in a learning environment—often peppered with real or simulated work situations—all designed to stretch and engage head, hearts, and hands.
Role Models: More than any other, first line leaders need role models to emulate and coaches to help them navigate their experiences. The leader’s own manager is the best coach, mentor, teacher, and champion. High performing organisations develop midlevel leaders who can in turn develop their team of front-line managers.
Action: Tactical, practical, action oriented — three words that describe the daily task of the first-line leader and that learning solutions should mirror. First-line leaders need tools and experiential, engaging learning situations with clear on-the-job application or embedded in the daily work.
The Mid-Level Leader
Encouragement: At this level, it is important for organisations to acknowledge the important role and significant contribution of mid-level leaders, and to provide opportunities for leaders to be stretched—especially because, at this level, development needs to shift from a focus on skill-building to business and leadership challenges. Leaders need to reflect on what it means to be a leader, assess their strengths and vulnerabilities, develop self-knowledge, and build emotional intelligence.
Alignment: Success demands that development for this level be conceived as the second tier of an integrated leadership development process, extending beyond learning experiences to other human resource systems, such as performance management, selection and recruitment, and talent management.
Involvement: Leaders at this level need coaching and support from their own managers, as well as the visible participation of senior executives in midlevel leader development programs. The latter may come in the form of making leadership development a strategic priority and championing it, or in actual participation in strategic conversations during relevant sessions or workshops.
Real Work: The best organisations provide leaders at this level with on-the job learning experiences as part of their development work. This focus on real work embeds the learning in the leaders’ day-to-day job, enhancing the application of new skills and tools, and making learning more efficient by creating a real return for the leaders and the business.
The High-Potential Leader
Tailoring: At this level, learning experiences must be tailored and rely on cultivating daily experiences that maximise learning. These leaders will still need traditional approaches to skill development, such as classroom, workshop, or virtual sessions, but as much as possible, they need to maximise their investment by “learning in the trenches.”
Challenge: High potentials need challenge and risk. They need to stretch in new ways through experiences that appeal to the cognitive/rational, the emotional, and the tactical, because, as research shows, this accelerates their learning. They need to step out of their comfort zones, risk failure, and have coaching supported opportunities to learn from their experiences.
Breadth: Take learning beyond the leader’s current sphere of influence and knowledge, even outside the organization, in the form of strategic assignments. Expose leaders to new, leading-edge concepts and thinkers to invite them to grapple with challenging and even unorthodox ideas and apply them to their own business. University and executive programs can provide exposure to a wealth of new ideas and exposure to external networking opportunities.
Support: Because of the unique type of development high potentials need, support is even more critical. Manager and mentor support is highly effective, but our research shows that executive coaching is a uniquely powerful way to support tailored, challenging, and broadening learning experiences with this level of leader. Moreover, we have found the financial payoff, in quantifiable business results, to be 6 to 20 times the investment, with additional value returned in the form of quantified and qualified leadership results and additional benefits to individuals and organisations.
AchieveForum helps organisations ensure leaders at all levels are prepared to meet the unique challenges of their roles. As you can see, leaders at each level represent a critical part of the organisation’s leadership pipeline, and their particular needs must be addressed in your leadership strategy.
Our experience in building and implementing learning systems for leaders at all levels means that your leaders can avoid the pitfalls that lead to failure, successfully take on their roles, and realise their promise as drivers of the success of the business in 2020 and beyond.