The changing trend
There was a trend popular a decade ago - “Generalists rise high, and Specialists rise fast”. This almost became a myth that is getting broken now. We have started moving towards something different, and that is, "Specialists rise fast and high”. If one in ten C-Suite executives were specialists ten years ago, it is swiftly increasing to more than 4 in 10 and expected to grow higher.
Specialists are experts in the field who continuously learn and upgrade themselves to have the latest knowledge in their area of expertise. Learning and performance are coupled together to building a specialist.
For the workforce to become more and more inclusive, anyone interested can gain expertise and become specialists to pick up critical roles, because “Expertise is the new INCLUSION”.
4E Experiential Leadership Development Model to build Expertise
Historically, expertise has been the way by which a personal brand is built. As it was getting built, bias set in and there were also stereotypes built. As we evolve in this digital era, this is changing and expertise is establishing itself as a powerful brand once again, but this time, breaking stereotypes. Any mechanical/ digital tool used, does not know who is using it. Anyone can be trained if they have the aptitude and attitude to pick up the skills. In this era where expertise is valued and respected more than anything else, the important question for which we must know the answer is - "What is my expertise?"
As every individual is geared up to find the answer to this question, Organizations must build a culture to leverage the expertise of their employees and apply the 4E Model of Leadership Development to retain and develop not just the harvest leaders but also gain leadership as an Organization.
Organizations must build a culture for their employees to Emerge, Enhance & Evolve and support this process through Educate where the erstwhile Leadership Development Programmes could be revamped and integrated.
When Indian Air Force called out interested women for the first time to apply, the first woman air combat pilot in India, Gunjan Saxena applied because of her aspiration to fly. She was initially rejected due to permanent disability. This permanent disability was her weight and height.
Her Army officer father motivated her to lose weight and appeal to gain the position. Due to her hard work and diligent effort, she managed to lose weight and appealed for the position. The officer who was evaluating this wanted to make her understand that the height difference of an inch could make it difficult for her to fly and asked her to sit in the model helicopter. Fortunately for Gunjan, her arms and legs were of the required length to the surprise of the evaluating officer, and she was finalized as the first and only woman combat pilot in that batch.
She emerged as the most efficient pilot during the Kargil war where she was posted along with many other male pilots to evacuate wounded soldiers. The journey to that was not simple but very clearly, she emerged as a leader through her expertise.
More and more focus on identification and development of expertise can be enabled by organizations by keeping opportunities open in a transparent manner. This would motivate talented employees to emerge as leaders. This is an essential starting point for Experiential Leadership Development.
The Indian Cricket team has won the test series against Australia in Australia this year. The India team that played did not have its star players but had the emerging new players. They scaled up to prove themselves.
In organizations as well, the confidence gained for employees would be mainly through their expertise. To move up to the next level there is a requirement to enhance themselves. This involves adapting to the situation and scaling up to the requirement. This can happen only if the person is willing to enhance themselves.
For an expert who has emerged as a leader, the next step is to prove applying the expertise in different scenarios. Enhancement does not happen with expertise applied in just one scenario. Both the employees and the organization must be willing to take risks and provide multiple opportunities where employees can gain maximum exposure to diverse cultures, complex challenges and even failures.
Proven models of succession planning and connected leadership development also have this step as an underlying feature named as Shadowing. It is time to go for the launch without testing and provide a great opportunity to enhance and move up the leadership path.
In a Netflix movie made on Gunjan Saxena, it is depicted that she could take off on her first assignment only because there was no other pilot available and she was instructed to shadow the experienced pilot in a second helicopter. The first helicopter was unfortunately shot down by enemies and Gunjan took charge of the situation to save not only the wounded soldiers but also her team of pilots who were in the first helicopter.
Leadership reaches its full potential when there is an opportunity to transform and innovate, mostly disruptive. Organizations must get ready to provide opportunities for the emerged and enhanced leaders to evolve with newer models. Once again this involves risks, but it is worth taking.
All Women’s Indian pilot team made history by flying one of the longest passenger flight routes from Sanfrancisco to Bengaluru for around 17 hours. If this was not tried, we would not know if this was even possible. The cockpit doesn’t know who is operating it. An opportunity to evolve can be provided by organisations to enable transformation and innovation.
It is not necessary for just the product companies to file patents; non-linear growth is best for any business. Research could be done as a real time experience, for which the investment is trust on expertise.
Evolution is phenomenal and when leaders evolve there is much more than just a leader evolving.
Here comes the connecting “E”. At every stage, there are experts who have travelled this journey and have gained tacit knowledge that they could share through formal learning programmes, mentoring and coaching. This continuous learning and sharing connect all other “E”s and enables an expert to stay relevant, enhance and evolve.
Getting ready for the Change:
The World Economic Forum estimates that 50% of employees will need to be reskilled by 2025.
Gartner research recently showed that only 44% of employees say they trust their organization’s leaders and managers to navigate any crisis well.
Talent Development teams have lot of offer considering that the success of an organization depends on how the organizations are navigating through this change. 4E Experiential Leadership Development Model to build expertise could enable both employees and the organizations navigate this change and make organisations more and more inclusive.