Technology is developing so rapidly that it is rewriting both the business and people principles, be it product development, customer experience, logistics, efficiency, workforce development or deployment. Businesses need to press the tech-savvy button to stay relevant in ever competitive markets. For this, business leaders need to combine the best of human and machine intelligence to create an inclusive and forward-thinking company. This means adopting new-age leadership competencies to build a new breed of leaders that can take the organization to greater heights in the present as well as the future. This is possible only when the core construct of leadership development programs revolves around the modern-day leadership principles.
Leadership Skills that Define HiPos
The first step is, obviously to know the right leadership competencies. Interestingly, 80% of the competencies and enablers that have always made leaders effective are still relevant—attributes such as brightness, endurance, drive, and agility. Building from this foundational strength, leaders need a new set of capabilities—the missing 20%—to achieve success in a digital age in which the leadership play-book has yet to be written. Gone are the days when only IQ and EQ made the cut for emerging leaders, today’s competitive landscape demands a lot more:
- Adaptive Focus: The ability to create and actively adjust a vision for the organization is an invaluable competency. At the same time, leaders must be able to operate in broader horizons, fine-tune on-the-run, balance the short term and the long term and actively engage, while continuously sensing and adapting. This goes hand in hand with promoting experimentation, and motivating people to propel forward through ambiguity.
- Managing paradoxes: This is the ability to lead through seeming contradictions, while suspending automatic responses. More automation and technology are bound to exist-leaders must balance these with more human connection. There will be more data to make decisions, but leaders must generate the correct insights to make sense of this data for effective decision making. Emerging leaders will be expected to foster innovation, at the same time reigning in operational such as cost and efficiencies. As they share more on social and media, so must they protect the basic privacy and confidentiality of their organisations. Leaders must be willing to motivate their teams through unstable job environments, at the same time enable engaging work cultures. Technology is handling us a plate of paradoxes, and it one who balances these well who will prove an emerging leader.
- Driving collaboration: The ability to partner and integrate is the new default for how to share information, be innovative and accelerate performance. As business undergo digital transformations, they shall enter into more collaborations in order to scale the business. Emerging leaders must then be able to go beyond mere open cubicles and social platforms and cultivate a culture of collaboration. They must dive into actually changing the structures of working relationships and set up more connections and points of integration.
- Stepping out of comfort zone: HiPos are generally known for their expertise to be/do multiple things at any point in time. Digital takes this one step ahead, demanding them to step out of the comfort zone to differentiate and branch out, share responsibilities and opportunities, and uncover new capabilities, spread risk, and improve performance.
- Anticipating and leading transformations: The ability to enable significant, whole-scale change is at the heart of any successful leadership effort, and more so than ever today. HiPos must be able to see connections across the enterprise and work simultaneously on multiple parts of the business or organisational systems. On one end of the digital transformation is technical and data transformation, at the other end leaders must face the people and cultural transformation. Emerging leaders need to develop new methods of working, up-skill and re-skill talent, be ready to fail fast. And all of this while executing and experimenting.
How to Develop HiPo skills
The good news that the new-age skills can be taught, by tapping into certain innate triggers that HiPos typically have. Yes, Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ) are important characteristics to “learn” the leadership game, but these are not enough. We see the dominance of two rather interesting traits- Curiosity Quotient (CQ) and Learnability Quotient (LQ) in the leadership development objective. This is natural, considering that the workplace is ever-evolving, with new ways of working, technologies and principles fundamentally disrupting organizational life. Without an innate need to learn and contribute, any leader will fast become outdated and obsolete. Leadership Development Programs must, therefore, focus on building the CQ and LQ of their people, to be able to nurture emerging leaders.
Up the Curiosity Quotient (CQ): Research indicates curiosity to be a predictor of an individual's employability, as a relevant job skill. Being curious equips a person to connect with others, making them more collaborative and connected. But having a high curiosity quotient is a necessity, in the wake of automation, organizations who do not want their skill pool to get redundant must continuously feed curiosity to their people, to keep learning and upgrading. Senior leaders must encourage junior leaders to be curious i.e. to know what they don’t know.
- Make people aware of their knowledge gaps
- Encourage employees to discuss their areas of improvement in a positive manner, and not only highlight their strengths
- Focus on the bright side of curiosity i.e. about acquiring new knowledge and developing expertise
- Encourage employees to experiment and have new experiences at work. This may mean getting them to work on new projects, or meeting new people
- Provide active channels to question and get creative. Ideas such as knowledge huddles, knowledge-sharing platforms, social sharing platforms, ideation hackathons, etc., can go a long way in feeding the curiosity bug
Improve the Learnability Quotient (LQ): Research shows that individuals who seek learning opportunities will be better positioned for career growth
“Learnability is the hot ticket to success for employers and individuals alike.” said Mara Swan, Executive Vice President, Global Strategy, and Talent, ManpowerGroup
A high LQ will help people actively seek out continuous skills development in order to remain attractive to employers, and for companies to enable their workforce to learn new skills and to adapt to new processes and technologies. So much so that, learnability can be an indicator of career mobility. Employers need to recognize and reward learnability.
- HR and business supervisors should start by setting up learnability assessments for employees to know where they stand in terms of their LQ. For example, ManpowerGroup in association with Hogan X has developed a web-based visual assessment to identify each individual's LQ (Learnability Quotient) — providing insight into their motivation and style of learning.
- Provide the right learning resources for people to improve their learnability. Such assessments and associated learning interventions can go a long way in creating a learning-culture at an employee-level and therein, at an organizational level.
- Encourage social learning as a way of learning by putting together relevant and usable platforms, content and touch-points.
Leadership development programs would do good taking into consideration these basic human tenets. Of course, cultivating a culture of high curiosity and continuous learning cannot happen without the active participation of the recipient i.e. the learner. Leaders must don the “support hat" and allow employees to bring out the child in themselves, to be able to create a new and effective leadership direction.