Article: Building a holistic leadership development program

Leadership Development

Building a holistic leadership development program

Leaders who understand both the internal functioning of the company while having a strong understanding of the external VUCA world are often the solution that most companies look for today. But to get a tailor-made candidate is a big challenge.
Building a holistic leadership development program

Companies today are far more comfortable in experimenting with their existing products and processes. With the presence of high market returns, there is both an incentive and a need for companies to innovate today. By bringing in new thought processes into the functioning of the company, business heads today are caught in a race to be more relevant to their consumers.  For this, companies are trying to tweak their products and services in a way that that can easily be accessed by their consumers and end up solving their problems. 

This shift mostly has been driven by two broad factors. 

  • Firstly, with the boom of technology-, beginning with the creation of fast computational machines and access to the internet- companies today stands on thin ice when it comes to being their market leaders.  The access to technology has helped push the establishment of young companies that, because of their appeal, become serious competitors in a matter of years, if not months. And the competition today may even arise from a player in a different industry. Airbnb, a housing aggregator today stands head to head with many established hotel chains in the world. Automobile companies like BMW and Toyota find their biggest competitor today in the form of a Google or an Uber who are leveraging technology to create self-driving cars. 
  • Secondly, as technology today, along with creating a level playing field, it has also created high return structures for those who take risks. By successfully utilizing technologies like digitization, cloud computation and data analytics, companies can today evolve their products to make them more meaningful for their consumer. These two factors together add to growing importance within industries to ensure that companies are taking risks and as a result have better growth trajectories. 

Leadership often becomes a vital factor for businesses to realize their true potential. When we take a closer look at the factors that have helped companies realize their potential better, we often tend to overlook the role of the internal decision making of the company had to play.  Business leaders today are not only assigned the role of re-shaping the company but to also bring in sustainable innovations to make their product more consumer-centric.  

Roadblocks in leadership development 

In order to ensure that a company has access to quality leaders who are the helm of affairs, a strong and relevant leadership development programs are necessary.  Creating an overall integrated leadership development program, which spans across all levels of the organization, is necessary for companies.  But this often becomes a roadblock for most companies as they often fall into the rut of creating tokenistic leadership programs, without proper investment. Such leadership development programs often end up reaching a few select few which in turn impacts the leadership pipeline within the company. To add to the problems, HR professionals today have a range of possible development programs to execute within the company.  With so many models and approaches, it is often hard for companies to create the right experience their future leaders need. 

Creating meaningful programs 

With business environment becoming increasingly complex, leadership programs need to be carefully designed and created to ensure that the company’s talent is retained and trained in a suitable manner.  This can be done by keeping the following in mind

Create a business case and get stakeholders on board: The biggest challenge for HR professionals in the learning field today is to get the CEO and other senior leaders on board. When it comes creating a holistic training program for leaders , establishing a clear mandate with the senior leadership helps give legitimacy to the program while ensuring a steady flow of investment into it. To create an impact, the development program needs to be sustainable. And in order to ensure sustainability HR professionals need to provide a strong business case for their leadership investments directly to business heads. 

Make talent development and succession a priority: Finding a leader outside the company, tailored for their role is often a rarity in today’s market. And even if one is found, there might still be some problems when it comes to the cultural fit of the person. The recent debacle with Tata Sons is a good case in point. Therefore succession planning should be supported within the company. By rewarding leaders for developing successors and sharing talent companies can create the right mandate of leaders creating a succession plan.

Ensure development programs are inclusive: One of the major challenges of building leaders within the company has been the shrinking pipeline. Moving up the pyramid, one finds the leaders pipeline shrink significantly. By creating an inclusive development program helps HR professionals tap into its talent pool more efficiently. One needs to be careful while designing development interventions and ensure that there is a balance between individual goals and organizational goals. By focusing more on different stakeholder groups like millennials and women, companies would successfully be able to create a strong pipeline while ensuring an equitable distribution of opportunities.

Create an integrated program which exists across levels: It is necessary that HR professionals create an integrated leadership development program across the various levels of the company. This helps them in tracking their talent better and often helps the individual employee understand their connect to the “bigger picture” of the company. It also helps is standardization of the development program across geographies.

HR professionals in the learning field today have significant advantages over their predecessor.  Facing a crunch in investments, traditional training programs had been about following a “one size fits all” approach that sought to maximize output with minimum inputs. They have relatively more freedom and option today. But along with creating the right development program, the assessment of  its viability and effectiveness becomes vital.  Sound assessments are necessary to ensure the alignment of training programs to business outcomes. By collecting and analyzing data, HR professionals can course correct and ensure that their leadership programs are building the requisite skills and behaviors that are needed by the business. 

All this is necessary to be thought through before implementing a new training program for leaders.  Because it’s often difficult to find and train a new captain when the ship is already in troubled, stormy waters.  

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Topics: Leadership Development

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