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									LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT – CHALLENGES, BEST PRACTICE AND RECOMMENDATIONS Menaka Padayachee, Workpace Unit, Durban. October 2009 Introduction How do you develop great leaders? This question has been at the heart of Social Science and Psychology since before the names of either discipline even existed. The question is not just academic since we know that great leaders bring great results while poor leaders often bring poor results. There is also recognition that highly motivated key staff who work together creatively and collaboratively to support the organisation’s vision, values and strategy often provide the distinctive capabilities that deliver great results. Hence the proliferation of leadership studies and programmes, courses and books on what it means to be a leader and how to develop leadership. In the past 8-9 years however there’s also been a parallel recognition that 50% of all leadership development strategies fail on implementation, and that 80% of these failures are due to people-related problems. So it seems that it is easy to read about what Leadership is and entails but less easy to build and sustain. Theres appears to be a high “fade factor.” Today I shall be speaking to you about leadership development, and not about leadership per se –about how best to build sustainable leadership in your departments. This learnings are based on actual experiences of organisations that have achieved some measure of success in their efforts of leadership development. As there will be challenges of implementation along the way, I will be alerting you to what some of these might be and provide some pointers on what constitutes ‘best practice” in leadership development. Finally I shall conclude with some recommendations on the steps you might wish to take if you decide to embark on leadership development in your department. First let me share with you a definition of leadership. “leadership creates a driving, emotional response in followers that inspires them to achieve mutually desired conditions or a vision of the situation. Leadership is a dynamic mutual bond between the leader and followers based upon trust and credibility” From this definition it follows that effective leadership development programmes must achieve 3 main outcomes. First, they enable the leader to understand his/her strengths and vulnerabilities through assessments and self awareness activities. This outcome is straightforward since it is quantifiable and there are many assessment tools available to achieve this. Second, effective leadership development programmes develop in the leaders the ability to bond with and influence others, both formally and informally. This requires knowledge,

application and practice. This outcome is also relatively straightforward to achieve. Thirdly, such programmes also develop the leader’s ability to accurately interpret factors that describe a situation and apply the right techniques to achieve results. This 3rd outcome IS challenging since the factors that describe any situation are dynamic. Nevertheless, leaders must demonstrate the ability to recognise the factors at play in any given situation and makes the right decisions even if these situations have never been faced before (systems thinking, analytical thinking etc). It also means that as the leader develops and matures, the scope of his leadership expands too, moving from the one-to-one, to the team, the unit, the organisation and eventually to the external community as well. I am sure many of you recognise yourselves in these different levels.. And herein lies another challenges: that in any organisation there is a need for demonstrated leadership ability at different levels of the organisation. So where does one start in considering leadership development for organisational effectiveness in your department? Well, a good starting point would be for us to be aware of a few other challenges you might face along the way. Organisational Challenges of Leadership Development • • • • • • • Should the CEO/HOD and top tier managers be the first to undertake leadership development? If so, should they attend courses individually or attend an in house customised programme. Should leadership development of high potential middle managers be regarded as a higher priority than the development of the top tier? What about line managers? Is the sequence matter? Should you spend money on the top performers or those who need development? How can you measure the effectiveness and return on investment of these leadership development exercises? How does one ensure that your LDP brings about the desired changes and outcomes? How do you ensure executive engagement?

Fortunately there are precedents for best practice that provide us with some indicators of a way forward and what I’ve done is extract a number of key principles that seem to be common to effective leadership development. Lets have a look at these:

Principles underlying Effective Leadership Development Programmes For a start, new studies show that “active” leadership development programmes are one of the top “renewal” processes critical to sustainable long term change in behaviors and competencies. For the for- profit sector, these are defined in terms of maintaining competitive advantage for increased profit but for service organisations (such as the public sector) I believe they may be defined more in terms of more effective management and processes for service delivery and/or in the provision of quality service by frontline staff and other considerations. What do we mean by “active” programmes.

Key Principles underlying effective LDP’s 1. LDP mirrors the organisation’s leadership approach and values Different industries/organisations take different approaches to leadership. Call centres or sales organisations for example, would emphasise accountability as the driving force for leadership development. Human service organisations such as the public sector might stress values instead. So you could find that off-the-shelf approaches of leadership programmes on offer at our various institutions of higher learning might not be in line with your organisation’s approach or values, and might actually create value conflicts for employees and expectations that set them up for failure. Lesson: Seek alignment between your core values and the content of your LDP. 2. Right content Leaders require certain basic competencies for the position to be effective. Over time and as careers progress so do leadership needs expand. At each level there are different dimensions each leader must manage – he/she must have the technical competencies for the =ob level, planning skills, personal mastery and so on. Lesson: Your LDP should have the right mix of leadership content.

3. Tiered programme (multi level impact) Leaders at different organisational levels need programmes that address their unique needs at that particular level. Initially, new leaders need the knowledge and skills to impact their immediate accountable area. As they progress up the ladder they need to broaden their perspective, to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty and to know that their decisions might have unintended

consequences. Experienced leaders, for example, need the knowledge and skills to impact those outside their positional authority. whilst senior executive leaders must be able to impact those outside the organisation as well. Lesson: A tiered multi level programme based on the positional level of leadership will provide the breadth and depth of competencies to enable leaders to learn and thrive. 4. Experimentation and Practice Observe a toddler playing with wooden blocks. Generally they do not have someone observing them, explaining that if the centre of gravity of the top block moved over the outside edge of the block below it, the top block would fall. He/she would learn this on his own through trial and error. Even if someone did give the child this information, do you think he would apply this information without some form of experimentation first? Likewise, leadership is made up of multiple applied competencies that cannot be learned from a book or a lecture. Each competency must be experienced and practiced in different situations. Example • Placing the leader in different situational activities outside his normal experience broadens his/her ability to apply concepts in diverse, unknown situations. It reinforces critical questioning, thinking and decision making competencies. Case studies, role play, simulated learning activities provide situational learning experiences during training. Outside of training, these should include special projects, job rotation, formal and informal mentoring and more. Together these allow the new leader to try a new situation and fail in a safe environment. Lesson: If your LDP does not force competency application outside of the comfort zone, it will not achieve the desired results. Your LDP should prepare leaders for diverse situations that challenge their time horizon, decision making and systems thinking abilities. Many programmes fail to adequately prepare the developing leader for the complexity of the real life situations they will inevitably face in their current, or future, job situation.

5. Ongoing and Distributed to develop Mastery One cannot provide a few learning events and declare a leader developed. Instead there should be a series of linked, carefully considered and increasingly challenging events over the course of 6 -12 months or up to a year. These would allow adequate time for the leader to develop mastery of one leadership competency before pursuing another. So if instructor-led learning is used, workshops should be spaced at least weeks apart to allow time for practice and mastery but no more than 6 weeks apart as this will diminish the linkages.

Published examples of this (Intel, 3M, GEC) suggest that leaders participate in at least 12 days of structured activities (not class room training) every year. Lesson: Prepare for at least 12 days focused development time distributed throughout the year to achieve desired business results.

6. Creating Emotional Response Do we learn through our five senses only? No of course not. We learn through our emotions as well. Learning is not merely what we experience through external stimuli but is mediated via our emotional outlook. Just as we create an emotional response in others, your LDP should expose leaders to different perspectives which will in turn improve their ability to see things from different perspectives, through different eyes (empathy). Adults place more meaning on knowledge gained through personal insight and discovery, so by engaging the learner in a whole mind and body experience, the information is more readily processed and retained. Lesson: Your LDP should provide different experiences and expose leaders to different perspectives that will affect their own mental models and outlook. 7. Combine Leadership Theory with proven Best Practice, then Practice and Feedback Tell someone to lead others, then walk away. Will they be able to do it? Give them a book on leadership. Could they effectively inspire others? Our ancestors did not learn to hunt for food by listening to their elders – what they did was practice what they had learned from their elders - through mock hunting exercises or the real thing. Now, we also know that the human brain learns through a combination of knowledge and experience that validated through feedback. We learn best when we put knowledge into a context that has relevance for us, through practice. Practice allows us to use this new information in a context that we best understand as individual learners. We reinforce understanding through observations of practice exercises in such activities as role play or other mastery activities and when we receive feedback. It is the feedback which ensures that the experience gained is properly filtered and reinforced and thus leads to performance change. Lesson: Research suggests that quarterly training & development events combined with feedback and assessment and practiced through experiential means such as special project do work..


Modes of Learning There is a tendency to structure the learning experience on one level only when in actual fact people learn at many different levels. We attend conferences like this, sit and listen to speakers, scribble notes that we can review later in a setting more conducive to our learning preferences. At most, talks and lectures can point us in the right direction. We learn more when we engage the whole mind/body in putting to use the knowledge and theories we’re informed about. An an effective LDP would apply verbal, visual, physical, emotional and intuitive aspects into the learning experience to ensure the greatest number of people understand, retain and apply the information. Lesson: Briefings, presentations, guided discussions, computer based learning, distance learning all have their place in the training realm, but poly modal learning integrates underlying principles of the lesson into a more effective and efficient learning methodology.

SUMMARY : 6 Best Practices for Leadership Development Programme

Strong Executive engagement The most important practice of all is to obtain the engagement of top leadership. Their commitment means that the programme will be highly regarded, aligned with the organisations strategy and focussed on the right leadership business issues. How to secure engagement will be addressed in my recommendations. Tailored leadership competencies Successful LDP’s are based on identified leadership competencies. By isolating and agreeing on the leadership competencies most important to your department you will have the foundation for a leadership development programme plus career development, succession planning and other talent related processes. Alignment with department/organisation strategy Leadership development is far more than management training. As people move up the organisation their skills must shift from people and project management to strategic business and organisation-wide operations management. Your departmental objectives and strategies should be brought into focus in the design of your LDPs to secure better alignment and success.

Target all levels of leadership While the term “leadership” may not seem to apply to first line managers, research shows that high impact programmes have elements that apply to every level of management. Apply a comprehensive and ongoing approach No sound LDP consists solely of an instructor-led training event. In fact it is estimated that less than 15% of learning from class room style management training results in sustained changes in behavior. Programmes must be holistic and active and include developmental assignments, 360 degree assessment, case studies, external education, internal or external mentoring and a wide variety of e learning and other media to give leaders a complete experience. As stated earlier, people learn by doing, so the best LDPs focus on experiential learning. Integrate with talent management Your departments are going to be here long into the future so it is important to take a long range view and build a sustainable leadership pipeline. Thus it is important to assess leadership potential (as part of performance management), identify successors to existing leaders and place these individuals into the right development programmes as part of one’s regular business practice. In fact one of the biggest indicators of first class leadership development programmes is having a set of established business practices and an organisational culture that encourages development throughout the organisation. It is these that should guide the design of all HR training & development strategies, including leadership development.

Recommendations (on getting started) Top tier executive leadership development I believe the first step is to increase the interpersonal and intra-personal awareness (and consequently, the emotional intelligence) of the CEO/.HOD and top tier executives. Most top executives gain their positions by being competent performers but their their relational skills and ability to listen and communicate strategically are often under-developed. A customised programme linked to the leadership development objectives of the organisation and which underscored by the principles of experiential action based and reflective learning plus individual and team coaching could be considered.

The CEO/HOD and top tier then become role models and authentic “Vision and Values” Communicators. On returning to work they know themselves much better, understand their strengths and weaknesses and have a plan for their further development, which can be assisted by ongoing coaching to bed-in new skills.

Participant develop capacity to design and develop Leadership Development Programmes The top team are then also in an excellent position to collaborate with HR professionals to guide the design and development of customised in-house LDPs utilising internal or external professionals/training providers. Again these customised programmes must ensure an alignment of the competencies, attitudes and behaviors required of leadership with the strategy, vision and values of the department/organisation. Again, in design, these programme should take note of the principles underlying effective LDP outlined earlier. Establish high performance teams & breaking down functional and geographic barriers Research shows that the most effective development of emerging leaders takes place in the workplace rather than in the classroom and that young managers establish the breadth and depth of leadership when exposed to a range of challenging roles beyond their own comfort zones. As someone once said comfort is the enemy of learning and it seems that diversity is the key. Again this is covered in an earlier section.

Secure ownership and commitment of middle managers This can be achieved through customised programmes referred to above and communicated as a strategic operational goal that is linked with the achievement of clearly identifiable goals and underscored by a performance management systems with financial reward. Accountability Finally leaders should be made accountable for achieving their goals and making behavioural changes in the workplace. Such accountability helps motivate and challenge leaders to go the distance. This can be achieved through project assignments to practice new competencies and further develop current competencies, 360 assessment and other measures including coaching to. Conclusion Conventional knowledge states that a combination of methods represent the most effective way to develop leaders in an organisational context.

Designing a leadership development programme depends on first identifying the ideal leadership qualities required, then the current status of talent around those qualities. It means ensuring that all the parts fit together like puzzle pieces and that your leadership development programme is continuous and not a series of ‘episodes.” Finally it must be “active” in the sense that it should be constantly reviewed, measured and scrutinised to ensure relevance. In closing, I’d like to wish you, the HR staff of our many public sector institutions, all the best in your efforts to take conference ideas forward in making a difference to peoples lives, through better service delivery. Thank you. Menaka Padayachee Director: Workplace Unit Training & Development Specialists 102 Cowey Road Durban 4001 Tel: 031 309 6320 Cell: 083 288 6346

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