We need to think differently about leadership development in the modern organization, and this involves a significant departure from how organizations viewed it in the past. By its very nature, leadership is emergent, collaborative, and relational. It’s only natural that leadership development programs should reflect these same qualities.
Historically, though, leadership development programs have been overly concerned with more static “skill-building,” and not necessarily concerned with dynamic “mind-set-building.” In other words, in the past, leadership development has been more concerned with established sets of discrete skills and tactical approaches rather than the creation of enabling mind-sets, which equip leaders to generate new, innovative possibilities for the future.
Why is this the case? Leadership has been traditionally explored through the lens of how individual, successful leaders operate. We’ve studied leaders like Jack Welch, Andy Grove, and their organizations, and tried to codify their leadership practices into skills to master and tactical approaches to follow. This resulted in a “skill set” approach to leadership development and, in some cases, to a primarily tactical orientation toward leadership training.
In light of today’s digital economy, we need to challenge this way of thinking and its resultant practice. We need to shift the focus from an emphasis on the “individual” in leadership development and shift it instead to a focus on leadership as a construct that exists between people in complex and fluid ways. Leadership development that takes this into account facilitates the creation of leadership mind-sets. These are the mind-sets that current and future leaders can leverage to better respond to the complexities of the ever-changing conditions in the external environment – whether changes in technologies, customers, suppliers, or competitors. A leadership development program that builds mind-sets around agility, customer-centricity, creativity, accountability, resiliency, and other forward-thinking qualities better provides leaders with the capabilities to lead collaboratively under uncertain, ambiguous, and changing conditions.
Because leadership actions are inherently relational, to establish such mind-sets, organizations need to contextualize and teach leadership development in a “relational” manner. This means learning that includes properly aligned instructional strategies. One such method is scenario-based training, with actors presenting learning concepts through real-world situations. The use of scenario represents the optimal instructional strategy for mind-set development, encouraging the leader-learner’s ability to connect leadership behaviors directly to the complex, uncertain, and highly relational world they find themselves operating in today.
Skillsoft’s new Leadership Development Program is leadership training designed for the modern digital learner. The program covers the most critical leadership competencies for the digital age and promotes the development of essential leadership mind-sets.
Heide Abelli is the SVP of Content Product Management at Skillsoft.