Article: A futuristic view of leadership development


A futuristic view of leadership development

Leadership development in the future is going to see involvement starting at the strategic level - of discussing what business impact is desired
A futuristic view of leadership development

Tapping into ideas from within the individuals, teams, and/or organizations itself will be the trend to expect, leading to a heightened role for professional facilitators


Leadership development should focus on experiments which take leaders outside their comfort zone


Yes … Change is constant, however, the speed of change is accelerating. In this fast changing landscape, leadership itself is being redefined. While we attempt to look into the crystal ball to see how leadership development would look like in the future, let’s pause to scan the changing landscape first.

Job roles today are witnessing a sea change, as the workforce spans multiple generations. Additionally, we are also faced with a digitally influenced shrinking of the globe and cultural diversity, that used to be an exception, is now a norm. Markets are more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), matrix structures and collective leadership is gradually emerging as a practice, and competency-based frameworks-based models are slowly fading away, especially at the leadership layer as they no longer hold relevance to these new dynamics. All of this points to the need for a very agile approach to developing leadership abilities, in the future.

The impact of the external changes affecting companies in a unique way makes organizational leadership development a very contextual event or journey. A lot more emphasis would be towards personalized development techniques, like coaching, which also will probably need to evolve, where coaching objectives will be decided not so much by the coachee, but more by the manager, and aligned to the business strategy. The need to follow a more adaptive and versatile form of leadership will soon be the way to go.

“Management is mostly about process; leadership is mostly about behavior” – so goes a classic definition to differentiate them. These two areas are merging, and leaders today are also expected to be great managers and vice versa. Organizations will ensure that the investment made on developing leaders gets them their business results, and that too in a relatively shorter time. 

Targeted development

The trend towards context specific design of leadership solutions is what will differentiate general vs. specific leadership development that will enable business results. For example, it would no longer be relevant to do a general situational leadership program (for instance), while it would be far more effective to take this great concept and apply this to the specific needs or problem areas of the organization. A facilitated discussion around how they see it impact their role could help participants find a way to translate this concept into actions/behaviors that would work for them. More often than not, these leaders use digital sources to understand the concept in more detail on their own too. The same can be applied to many other such concepts. Tapping into ideas from within the individuals, teams, and/or organizations itself, rather than imparting skills and knowledge will be the trend to expect, leading to a heightened role for professional facilitators and coaches. 

One case in point here, while interacting with two different companies in the telco industry, where one was targeting a subscriber base growth and the other targeting a better bottom line, we found that the same concept had very different action plans that emerged as useful for them. If we had to use a standard generic approach the outcome would not be as useful to either of the companies.

There was one very recent case of a large IT company servicing their international headquarters, and while they were seeking a cross-cultural communication development intervention, and where the diagnosis was not studied in more detail; when the program was being facilitated, the “real problem” that surfaced in the room, was more about the project managers not getting timely updates on delays happening in the project execution team. The Project Manager was blindsided to delays that would occur as the team members did not find it comfortable sharing “bad news” openly. Communication though was clear, it was not correct because of wrong inputs, and hence the commitments made kept changing, causing a lot of frustration at all levels. This soon got interpreted as a generalized regional or cross cultural conflict. Fortunately, flexible facilitation practices here, helped switch the plan for the rest of the day, to focus on what could be done to make this information sharing more comfortable. 

Effective and targeted leadership development

Innovation (done) Application (done) But can it be measured?

Leadership Development in the future is going to see involvement starting at the strategic level, of discussing what business impact is desired, rather than stating the change in skill level or behaviors that they would like to focus on. Development is likely to focus on more experiments which take leaders outside their comfort zone and adapting their approach to the tasks ahead of them.

This connected question then comes up… How are we going to measure the effectiveness of these leadership development methods? Perhaps, people will stop looking at return on investment (ROI) and instead adopt the New World Kirkpatrick measures of Return on Expectations would become the way to measure. 

The ideal scenario would be to measure the business impact. Ideally, if the development journey has started with the end in mind – that is what is the desired business impact. Then establishing what are the factors contributing to the achievement of it, and a method to compute the effectiveness of the intervention can be easily determined. Post the intervention and at the right point in time, analyzing the relevant information against the established metrics, the return on expectations could be determined.

As one can easily understand, this measurement would involve a few stakeholders across the organization that would need to get involved and share relevant data. This needs to be planned right at the start and get all the stakeholders comfortable to provide the information required, and compute the change from the before and to the after, of the intervention. 

Other lesser effective levels of measurements could be used too, where information can be collected from the stakeholders who could share the change seen in the mind set and behaviors of these developing leaders. This could give a fair idea on how the leaders development initiative is progressing and aligned to the business strategy.Simple surveys combined with some assessment tools can provide a fairly good indicator at this level of measurement of the development interventions.

Innovation amongst companies that offer Organizational Development solutions would most likely revolve around building capability towards offering a suite of services in the areas of diagnosing the developmental needs, designing solutions to suit the organizational context, delivery services like facilitation and coaching, and, demonstrating the impact on the business. Companies that can offer this entire suite of services and with a global footprint, would be the preferred and sought after trusted OD partner. 

In summary

Here is what organizations would need to keep in mind for an effective & targeted leadership development

  1. OD and leadership development companies would need to offer a range of services, covering research about the problem/opportunity, diagnosis about the organizational need and relevance to strategy, design using facilitation and coaching practices, delivery using professional facilitators and coaches, and demonstrating the intervention’s business impact.

  2. Leadership development would be effective only when the ownership of this initiative is taken by the participant, the internal stakeholders of the organization, and the solution provider, like a modified sort of 70-20-10 model.

  3. It would be productive to understand the “why” of their initiative and how it impacts their business. In other words, what is the business problem they are attempting to solve, or what is the business opportunity that they expect to cash on.

  4. Involving the customer in co-creating the intervention approach, including plans to sustain the change would be critical.

  5. Getting a buy-in to support the change from all the stakeholders, and not just the participating leaders is going to need a focus from early stage itself.

  6. Setting expectations across the business and tracking it would be extremely beneficial.

  7. Professional skills around facilitation and coaching would emerge as more important criteria rather than someone who understands the domain.


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Topics: Leadership, Leadership Development, #Leadership3.0

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