Organizations need to understand that leadership development cannot be a spontaneous or ad-hoc activity
Irrespective of the scale, size and industry, the biggest challenge an organization faces in the present times is developing the right set of leaders. The proof of the pudding lies in the steep increase in focus and efforts on leadership development as organizations realize that efficient leadership and a strong pipeline is key to their success and survival. Moreover, organizations have also come to realize that developing leadership talent requires a different approach altogether compared to other talent development efforts. It needs to be looked at as an activity that requires a proactive and methodical approach.
It’s all about an early start!
There is no point in looking for a leader when you need one because by then the battle has already been lost. The key will be to identify, develop and have a strong pipeline of ready leaders and do it continuously. Of course, it is easier said than done and that’s where the challenge lies. Leadership is a complex mix of attributes, attitude, talent, skills and will. The first challenge inarguably is the identification of potential future leaders.
Here’s how organizations should go about identifying leadership talent. Start from the beginning. Identifying potential leaders should begin at the time of selecting candidates for jobs.
- One of the best ways is to define certain values, maybe even skills and traits/attributes that become an integral part of the hiring process for all roles and levels. Every employee who comes on board comes with all these ‘needed’ pieces to an extent.
- Further ensure that the performance review process is done necessarily for all employees so that there is a mechanism to review and evaluate all these parameters. At a fundamental level, this means that the organizations need to understand that leadership development cannot be a spontaneous or ad-hoc activity. It has to be imbibed as a part of every process, right from the very beginning and also needs to be an integral part of how people are evaluated.
- The next step is to strengthen this pipeline and ready the leaders for the future and this is a multi-pronged strategy which comprises:
- A consistent awareness among employees that the organization needs leaders and that the leaders will come from within.
- Creating and fostering an ecosystem of leadership development.
- A comprehensive Learning and Development strategy. This has to be an eclectic mix of IT enabled tools, workshops, exposure to multiple functions, EQ oriented exercises, coaching and short & long-term trainings.
Organizations are increasingly encouraging such an ecosystem and going beyond the usual classroom trainings. Today, a number of organizations employ social tools integrated with e-learning and encourage collaborative learning among employees.
Such an ecosystem also brings out leadership talent in its own unique way. Potential leaders shine in such environments and also use this kind of a learning ecosystem to connect with people. When the time comes, the leader would be ready as it would be easy for him/her to work with people in a positive and participative manner.
The right partnerships
Most organizations cannot do this internally owing to the scale, size of the organization and the lack of certain specific skills or processes required to develop leadership talent. The involvement of an external expert helps make the process fair, organized and efficient. A strong service partner brings with it a rich experience from working with various other organizations from different industries and domains. There are a number of benefits such partnerships bring:
- Specialized skills and experience in leadership development
- Ready framework and in many cases training strategy, training material and training methodology that can be leveraged speedily
- A multitude of tools and software to deliver a part or whole of the learning ecosystem needed for leadership development.
Having the ‘right leaders’ at the ‘right time’ is all about starting early and having that foundation built in ‘right from the hiring process’. All that is needed then is providing the ‘right environment’ in a continuous and rigorous way.