How to design a new-age leadership training program
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The way organizations operate is fast changing. Digital transformation is disrupting legacy work models in industries and leadership is no longer an artificially contained job role. Rigid functional boundaries of organizations are softening if not dissolving altogether.
There's a rise in collective leadership rather than individual leadership, the new construct of leadership is thus, a much more shared and distributed one. To suit this new shared model, leadership development programs too are moving away from the ‘hero-leader’ paradigm to a collective leadership model. Organizations must find new ways and means for spreading leadership capacity throughout the organization, so as to enable its people with collective leadership capability and potential.
“Organizations must focus on building new skills such as inclusivity, collaboration etc. The reality is that new leaders are often responsible for leading teams in an environment of collaborative leadership capabilities and not their individual decision making.”
How to Build Contemporary Leadership Training
This journey of moving from a ‘hero-leader’ to ‘leader-teams’ is not easy. It requires a fundamental shift in construct and mindset because shared leadership is about cascading leaders across levels and thereby empowering every employee in his or her capacity. Here are some of the key strategies while designing this new-age leadership development model are:
- Democratize leadership training:
Leadership training has traditionally been restricted to a select few, with investment being proportionate per individual. The erstwhile leadership model was centered on senior leaders and executives. However, in the future, it needs to be democratized and cascaded across levels, so as to reach more individuals in the organization.
As leadership will be measured as leading mission-driven teams, organizations must devise a means to create leadership pockets throughout the company to help translate the company’s mission into action.
- Train continuously and consistently:
Leadership training has typically been sporadic. For example, a classroom training conducted three times a year does not have the desired behavioral change in people. Organizations must, therefore, work towards improving leadership behaviors on a daily basis. For this, organizations and managers must enable their employees with the right resources. Employees must be able to tap into development content at their own will i.e. when they have time to work on their development. Leadership training must be made more pervasive in the life of leaders.
- Contextualize the methodology and outcomes:
Leadership training is seldom contextualized. An effective leadership intervention is one that lies within the context of the work-life of a leader. This means that organizations need to make the content very accessible i.e., any device, anytime and anyplace. The methodology should involve the use of pragmatic problems and situations in such a way that a learner can relate to them. Only then can the learning be sustainable in a real-life environment.
- Make training crisp and engaging:
Trainees often complain that leadership development interventions are too long, text-heavy, and boring. It is important to make the content crisp and relevant for the individual. While e-learning can be very effective, it has to be done in an engaging way so that it offers the maximum returns on the training.
Above all, the content of the leadership training must be relevant to the new-age leaders.
Organizations must focus on building new skills such as inclusivity, collaboration etc. The reality is that new leaders are often responsible for leading teams in an environment of collaborative leadership capabilities and not their individual decision making.
Organizations must empower these leaders to be effective in their role. For this, they must develop the ability to share information, influence others, make decisions with collective inputs, be agile, demonstrate network-thinking etc. The leader of tomorrow is one who is not only ready for the digital economy but one who embraces the digital disruption with open arms. Senior leaders must accept this change in the leadership paradigm and accept that leading for the future starts with leading this change today.
(Insights in this article are curated based on a webinar on reinventing and democratizing leadership development.)