Article: More than Individual Development

Leadership Development

More than Individual Development

The emergence of leadership as a perennial organizational challenge hints towards failure of companies to frame an effective and enduring leadership development plan
More than Individual Development

For HR to facilitate leadership development within their organizations, they need to emerge as trusted advisors who are approachable


As per the Human Capital Survey 2015 conducted by Deloitte (with participation of more than 3,300 organizations), leadership was revealed as the top most pressing concern; 86 per cent of the surveyed HR and business leaders cited it as one of the most critical organizational challenge. This is the third consecutive time that leadership has soared as number one talent concern. Most companies, as highlighted by the survey, believe that they have a very narrow leadership pipeline.

As companies continually find themselves caught in the web of complexities, leaders today find it extremely challenging to keep up with the staggering pace of changes that are taking place at an unprecedented scale. “Today’s leaders have to be capable of operating in a world which is rapidly shifting, Interdependent and Non-linear or SINning. (Yes, we are all greater SINners than the generation before!). Paradigms of development that worked in a more predictable, linear stimulus-response, independent kinds of situation no longer work. Any workable Leadership Development Strategy can afford to ignore this fact only at its own peril,” emphasizes Venkatesh Iyer, Senior Partner at Vyaktitva.

According to many leadership development practitioners, the four leadership competencies that have become critical for organizational success are:

• Cognitive skills which include analytical and critical thinking, global perspective and creative capability

• Execution skills that comprise of customer focus, planning, program management, and requires leaders to be result focused

• Relationship skills that requires the ability to influence, engage and inspire, communicate collaborate, manage people and build relations

• Self-management skills which can help establish trust, adaptability, and love for continued learning and development.

With growing recognition of the importance of all of these leadership competencies for organizational effectiveness, there’s much more to leadership development than development of one individual. Today there’s need for global context setting, analysis of how to leverage technology, identifying frame of reference in terms of the areas for development, etc. Therefore, the learning & development space has seen a significant proliferation of methods when it comes to leadership development. Some of the upcoming trends that can effectively accelerate leadership development and result in organizational effectiveness are:

Action Learning 

Through personal experience we know that learn-ing is more effective when people pick actions rather than passively listening to lectures in a closed room. “Action learning defined broadly is a learning experience that includes a problem, an ac-tion, a group of peers and the crucial piece: built-in reflection,” says Sumit Sahni, Director-Learning Solutions and Delivery, Asia-Pacific, Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning. Action learning is therefore an experiential learning process that contributes to leadership development.

For leadership development to succeed, there are some key elements that drive continued learning and sustainable development such as insight, reiterated motivation, practical learning and accountability. For all of these to come together, it’s crucial to ask questions that generate insight, self-reflect and monitor, and proactively take actions. “After exposure to a new idea, leaders participate in action learning, where they act and then reflect. Then they move on to another new idea, with another action learning opportunity. This sequence gives learners a variety of ways to internalize the material” reveals Sumit Sahni.

Vertical Development

Traditional horizontal development method that is focused simply on progression of knowledge and skills supported by refinement of those skills is now being replaced by vertical leadership development method. Through this, leaders can construct meaning out of everyday experiences in a way that enables them to apply their competencies more effectively in achieving individual and organiza-tional goal.

Vertical development model supports a leader to shift his/her paradigm from one level to the next by providing them with challenging opportunities to get an experience-based development opportunity. Like Action Learning, vertical develop-ment also calls for consistent reflection on those experiences. Vertical leadership development completes building capacities and competencies by involving real world connect through everyday experiences; the model involves looking at development as a process and not an end. “Leadership development through this model does not hinder achievement of deliverables, but rather, like changing tires on a running car, takes place uninterrupted while meet-ing everyday challenges,” says Venkatesh Iyer, Sr. Partner, Vyaktitva.

Vertical development is commonly perceived to appear in three stages; the first stage is when a learner is seen as a dependent conformer from which s/he moves to becoming an independent achiever and then grows to become an interdependent collaborator. This model today is emerging as a collaborative and participatory network-centric trend in leadership development and is a growing method adopted by organizations for a stage-wise development program.

Collective Leadership

The timeless challenge of leadership is to bring together a group of diverse individuals and create an environment where they can work together effectively towards common and shared goals. It is only when such an environment is created that the third stage of becoming an interdepend-ent collaborator in vertical development is achieved.

Collective leadership represents a shift away from an exclusive focus on individual change agents and highlights the importance of more collaborative approach. This model of development takes place through a genuine partnering of skills, competencies, knowledge and attitude. It involves collaboration of not just human, but also of cultural, and technological resources.

Unlike other models of development where sole focus is on individual development after which the leader exerts authority over those under him/her, collective leadership accounts for shared responsibility, authority and accountability. As a result, the entire process translates into a democratic model that is highly transparent. If developed well, co-leadership, as against individual leadership, can thrive on collective intelligence which embraces diversity of people and perspectives.

“Shared or collective leadership is a great way to ensure business continuity and minimize the risk of unexpected lead-ership crises created by vacancies at the top. The success of a collective leadership structure depends on human relations. If your leadership team effectively applies these human relations principles, it will go a long way in getting results,” says Pallavi Jha, Managing Director and Chairperson, Dale Carnegie Training India.

Developing Millennial Leaders

The New Leader’s Council and Virtuali recently published a report which underscores the fact that we will see a growth of 30% or more of Millennials become the majority of workers. Further, the report notes that 50% of Millennials are already in leadership positions. Yet, 64% of those surveyed felt “unprepared” when assuming their leadership roles and report difficulties managing people and resolving conflicts. Now, as large numbers of Millennials, or Gen Y, move into the workplace businesses are likely to encounter leadership development crisis. They are the first generation to have been immersed in technology for most parts of their lives, which is likely to have a significant impact on the way they communicate as leaders.

As companies now look towards collective leadership development, focusing on development of Millennials as leaders with their diverse perspectives will emerge to be integral to leadership development as a whole. “For long term sustainability of organization, top management needs to take the lead and pass on skills and knowledge and other critical leadership acumen to emerging leaders; a clear co-owned development and learning pathway has to be developed so as to outline direction towards this long-term solution to the leadership crisis which is likely to emerge,” emphasizes Lavleen Raheja, CEO & Co-Chairman, Franklin Covey – India and South Asia.

HR Needs to take the Lead

As new challenges and trends are emerg-ing in the leadership development space, HR now needs to reinvent its role and take the lead in leadership development. It needs to keep the long-term goal in mind and work towards creating a sustainable pipeline of leaders.

“HR needs to help emerging leaders gather support for the solution within the organization, and create alignment for action by cutting through complex clutters,” argues David Yesford, Sr. Vice President of Wilson Learning Worldwide. For HR to facilitate leadership development within their organizations, they need to emerge as trusted advisors who are approachable. They need to help emerging leaders make sense of complexities that arise during the development process.”



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Topics: Leadership Development, Strategic HR

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