leadership development

Leadership Development - How To Make It Deliver Results

One of the areas of training, in which organizations spend huge amounts of monies, is Leadership Development. From large to small organizations, faced with talent supply issues, organizations are investing monies in their junior, middle and senior management - grooming them to take on additional responsibilities. However, most organizations, if not all are often wondering if their investments in this area are delivering the results that they require. While a panacea for this problem would be difficult, at least at the present time, it would be worthwhile to probe into some of the most common reasons as to why these programs do not get the required outputs

01. Nature of intervention: Leadership, is not something that can be taught in a classroom over a week end or even over a few weeks. Leadership competencies have to be nurtured over prolonged period of time. Successful organizations such as Tatas which have their Senior Leadership pipeline created through TAS (Tata Administrative Services) follow a very vigorous procedure through the lifecycle of the employee, both in terms of inputs as well as providing opportunities. Most organizations treat Leadership Development to happen with a program or a couple of programs.
Treat your Leadership Development Process as a sustained effort which will require multiple inputs, training being just one of them.

02. Selection of Participants: Like any other system, in the Leadership Development process also, your output is only going to be as good as your input. Many organizations do not spend enough time for putting in place an appropriate selection process for identifying the talent, which in turn shall be groomed (and then amongst them, if required, a few selected) for leadership roles. Organizations have to factor this so as to make sure that the process delivers the results that are expected.
Make sure you have as good a selection process for the leadership development process, as you have for the development itself.

03. Not establishing clear objectives: That Leadership Development is often used without serious consideration can be known from the fact that there are over 4.5 million searches that are done on the key word on Google. Most organizations, unfortunately, are trapped in what can be called, current fad syndrome, in which most times than not Leadership Development appears. Leadership Development has to be context specific with clear objectives meeting organizational requirements and employee aspirations. So, a leadership development process, for an innovation led organization would be very different from that of say, a mature organization operating in a stable market.
Establish clear objectives of the leadership development process, so as to make sure they are meeting your specific requirements.

04. Competency Model: While there are a certain set of common competencies, which run across any leadership development process, it is important to have specific aspects of your leadership development requirements factored into the Competency Model which you choose for your development process. Continuing with the example cited in step 4 above, an organization which is heavily dependent on Innovation will have Innovation Management, Risk Management, Internal Venturing, and related competencies in their leadership development model.
It is important to have the appropriate competency model and the associated competencies to be identified before embarking on the development journey.

05. Sustained Inputs: Most organizational theorists have debated on the issue of wither leadership can be developed or a trait that one is born with. While this is still debated, it is more or less now believed that Leadership can be developed, especially the kind required for organizations. However, like other competencies, or set of competencies, leadership needs to be constantly reinforced through appropriate inputs. Organizations cannot and should not expect a miracle to happen over a weekend of training. Successful organizations like GE spend great amounts of time in identifying individuals with leadership potential and then greater amount of time in developing them.
Sustained inputs, spread over a reasonable amount of time, is the only way that one can surface and polish leadership capabilities of an individual

06. Provide Opportunities: We often run into organizations which say, our people (aka middle and senior level leaders) dont take risks. But probe further and they are lost at answering what are those situations or conditions that they have provided for where the individual had to take a risk. Leadership is a skill at some level, and in order for that skill to be developed, opportunities have to be provided, and organizations can do this only when they think through the process at the start.
Leadership most times is capability in action; organizations have to provide the scope, the opportunity and the willingness to experiment with their new or being developed leaders.

07. Measure Effectiveness & Returns: One of the most important aspects any development initiative, leadership being no exception, is that there should be a measure on the effectiveness of the program and some computation on the returns. Most time organizations either do not establish a definitive metrics or loosely define it, thereby setting it up for future debates. In this context, some of the matrices that can be useful are (a) number of internal promotions to external lateral entries for critical positions, (b) percentage of home grown internal talent to external talent at senior levels, and also at other levels defined by the organization, (c) a somewhat contrarian metric could be the number of senior positions occupied by your home grown talent in other organizations. One of the leading Indian FMCG companies, at one point of time, could boast a significant percentage of CXO in various companies, across sectors. This was a point of attraction for its future talent.
Think through and set up an appropriate system of measurement on the effectiveness of the program, prior to the program so that the gains can be arrived at.

08. Iterate the Process: Any process, more so those to do with people will gain maturity only when it is constantly reviewed and improved upon. The Leadership Development process would also have to constantly be reviewed factoring some of the elements that are mentioned above. Apart from this, organizations would also have to consider external elements that will impact the process, such as sudden changes in the business environment, new technology changes or changes in competitive environment. Again a classic case would be the development of leadership that happened in an Indian conglomerate which was more in the B2B space, with sudden shift to B2C markets, where there was need for it to completely reorient its internal development processes which would make the leaders more retail customer centric.
Constantly review the external environment and internal demands to make Leadership Development context specific.

09. Institutionalize: Organizations which would like to be around beyond the millenniums would have to ensure that they develop Leadership Development processes which become a part of the organizational DNA. A classic case-in-point is GE and its intensive leadership development methods and processes at Crotonville which ensures that the organization is able to take on the challenges of growth and the dips of recession, all in the stride, while many of its counterparts disappeared.
Best practices and processes need to be documented and publicized within the organization so that they get embedded in the culture of the organization.
While the above steps may not necessarily take care of all the issues that are plaguing Leadership Development in organizations, these certainly would help in addressing some of the most common irritants.


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