The annual bill for leadership development is, by estimates, a whopping $50 billion. We can all acknowledge that investing in leadership development, particularly, given the impact of technology, is critical. We must also recognize that all too often, there is minimal strategy in how many organizations implement leadership development.
As the Director for Global Solution Practice, Business Skills & Leadership Portfolio at Skillsoft North America and APAC, I spend a large portion of my day meeting with people from all over the world to discuss leadership. I am surprised how many organizations are unaware of how the changes to the workplace are transforming the way we practice leadership. As a result, many end up trying to support leadership programs that do not meet the needs of the modern organization or employee.
Leadership is not a title
Contrary to traditional thinking, simply adorning your name with an elevated position does not make you a leader. At its core, leadership is about influence. Leaders are the fulcrum point for engagement, and by their behavior and actions can directly increase engagement and retention. A great leader is a person who enables optimum performance.
The two essential skills a leader must possess are:
Technology is radically overhauling the work landscape. Leaders today must understand how the implementation of newer technology is impacting business and customers’ broader sense of the output. Leaders must know about digital transformation and newer tech like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data. The modern leader must be able to guide the organization about the appropriate uses of these technologies.
Insight and innovation
Historically, management objectives were strictly aligned with output and improving efficiency. Today, the market demands more than just speedy delivery. Customers have higher expectations and want choice and selection as much as value. The mobile phone is an excellent example of this new dictum. Nokia was once the mobile phone brand. However, their failure to recognize changing customer wants and needs brought about their ultimate demise.
The modern workplace needs modern leaders
Again, traditionally, a leader was someone who oversaw an assembly line, and everyone on the team performed the same job, in the same location. The top concerns were output and order. Today, the structure and makeup of teams are dramatically different. A team could consist of people from marketing, finance and IT, and they may work remotely in locations anywhere in the world. The leader must, therefore, possess the capability to connect all these disparate elements. They must do so in a way that amalgamates all pertinent data from multiple sources into the management strategy to ensure the optimum out for the team. Given the range of skillsets and areas of expertise found in these motley crews, a good leader is also one who can identify and then defer to those individuals who are the best in their particular area.
Leadership is democratizing
The proliferation of teams and group work is increasing the number of leadership positions. There is a high likelihood that most workers today will, at some point, lead a team or a project. It is incumbent on organizations to, therefore, change how they develop their leaders.
To ensure your organization is preparing its employees for leadership, they must:
- look to technology-enabled methods like online learning to efficiently train new leaders in all areas of the business at scale;
- ensure the material taught encompasses the variety and wealth of thought leadership available today;
- expose employees to methodologies from agile to subject matter on diversity & inclusion;
- build a leadership pipeline; and
- offer point of need learning.
Leadership courses every modern leader needs
Finding leadership development content is easy. Finding the material that best serves your company’s needs is slightly more complicated. However, I believe that regardless of what program you offer, you must ensure you provide content in both digital transformation and leading virtual teams.
For tips on leading virtually, read Virtual Teams Need Leaders Who Understand the Needs of the Remote Worker
Need to convince the C-suite of the importance of leadership development?
Surprisingly, I still encounter situations where, despite the best efforts of the L&D team, executives are reluctant to invest in the development of leaders. If these sentiments appear familiar, here are some ideas you can use to encourage buy-in.
- Look at what the competition and your peers are doing in terms of leadership development.
- Help leaders understand the requirement for leadership pipeline. Some estimates say every day roughly 10,000 baby boomers reach 65 years of age. This alarming figure illustrates the impending exodus of current leaders as the rate of retirement continues to impact the workplace.
- Take direction from Skillsoft’s Mind the Gap: Upskilling Asia Pacific employees for the digital workplace report that highlights the strong desire by employees for professional development, particularly in the area of leadership.
Benny Ramos is a Solution Principal for Business and Leadership at Skillsoft.