Ecosystem Leadership: A New Mindset for Global Leaders

December 14, 2020 | Activate Learning, New Workplace Leadership | 5 min read

There are hundreds of books, scholarly articles, and lots of theories on the topic of leadership. It's viewed from the lens of scientific, philosophical, social/political, and business perspectives. The subject of leadership continues to unfold and adjust to the changing times in which we live. Skillsoft's Elisa Vincent, VP of global talent enablement, shares her perspective on what lies ahead for leadership development.

How has leadership changed over the past few years, and in what ways will it continue to evolve?

During a global pandemic and a time of rapid organizational disruption, leadership has become a practice of both the head and the heart. Leaders have to have an acute focus on motivating, engaging, and inspiring individuals and teams. They must enable agility, build resilience, and drive productivity while navigating increasingly complex and changing organizational structures, markets, and stakeholder groups. There is a renewed focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and enabling individual and organizational growth through cultural, systemic transformation. As a result, leadership today is about leading ecosystems of interconnected functional and cultural networks that require equal attention, focus, and nourishment to survive. Moving forward, leaders will need to acknowledge that they are not just responsible for their teams and bottom-line results. They are part of a larger global mechanism that is rapidly changing, part of an ever-evolving network of teams, and responsible for outcomes with increased visibility and focus on both what they deliver and how they deliver it.

What competencies and mindsets do you think are needed for leaders to be successful ecosystem leaders?

I believe that leaders today need what I like to call the 4-A competencies:

  1. Awareness: The ability to self-assess, seek feedback, reflect, and adopt new behaviors consistently. This competency requires a growth mindset, a curiosity for continuous learning and improvement, and a willingness to identify and eliminate bias.
  2. Agility: This competency is the unique ability to determine when to pivot and when to persevere. Leaders must align, equip, and sustain change positively for their teams. Agility requires personal resilience and a flexible leadership style based on the needs in a particular moment.
  3. Authenticity: Being authentic is the ability to inspire inclusively with emotional intelligence and strategic transparency. This competency requires courage, a strong sense of purpose, and vulnerability. Authentic leaders engage and inspire others with integrity, intention, and a shared purpose.
  4. Accountability: This is the ability to hold oneself answerable first. Leadership accountability requires leaders to become role models and provide a healthy sense of ownership in ways that empower others to do the same. They welcome and celebrate victories and failures and enable a growth mindset on their teams.

What should organizations, especially HR and people functions, do to prepare future leaders?

To build the 4-A competencies, I think organizations should apply the tried and tested 70-20-10 rule of learning. This approach shows that individuals tend to learn 70% of their knowledge from challenging experiences and assignments, 20% from diverse networks and developmental relationships, and 10% from coursework and training. This learning rule provides leaders with opportunities to assess their competencies and adopt feedback in the workplace. They have a chance to build their knowledge and capability through stretch assignments, internal mobility, working with diverse groups, and receiving coaching from diverse leaders. Participating in engaging training, certifications, and degree coursework adds to their potential growth. Democratizing the learning experience so that leaders have access to social collaboration networks and training on various topics just-in-time and at their fingertips is transformative. A healthy balance of training that is pushed out and assigned, along with training pulled in from the learner offers a truly impactful learning experience.

What role will digital learning play in the future of leadership development?

If this global pandemic has proved anything, it is that digital learning is here to stay, but not as an elimination of the human element of learning, but rather as a tool to enhance and evolve our experiences. We are all working and learning online using digital tools to communicate, coach, manage projects, track progress, strategically plan, and learn — all day, every day. Moving forward, learning in digital contexts will allow us to apply leadership competencies in real-time. Through machine learning and artificial intelligence, we will explore new worlds, new situations, and new ways of doing things that will bolster our awareness and ability to learn while leading busy lives. We are learning in the flow of work on a daily basis, and digital learning is compatible with where we work and how we work. It allows us to upskill and reskill in an effective and time-sensitive way, and it will continue to be a great enabler of leadership development in the years to come. Yet, speed and access should not come at the expense of quality and value. Leadership development experiences such as 360 feedback, coaching, mentoring, and teamwork will always prove to be an invaluable part of leadership development and a key to unlocking human potential.

What is your favorite leadership quote?

One of my favorite leadership quotes is by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” In this hyper-connected and disrupted world, we have a renewed level of sensitivity and need for connection and nourishment. Leadership today is an equal part head - intuition, strategy, acumen, and planning - and an equal part heart: empathy, compassion, respect, and inclusivity. And leaders will need to speak the language of both the head and the heart to enable growth and success for all.

Elisa Vincent is the Vice President of Global Talent Enablement at Skillsoft. She has 20 years of experience leading human capital management, learning and development, talent management, organizational design, and diversity and inclusion teams in global organizations. Formerly a Skillsoft content client, she specializes in leadership development and executive coaching. Now at Skillsoft, she leads our efforts to enable the individual and collective success of our employees and leaders.

Ready to embrace a new approach to leadership development? Check out the Skillsoft Leadership Development Program (SLDP). SLDP is powered by MIT Sloan Management Review, the preeminent content leader at the intersection of business and technology. SLDP addresses the changing way in which leaders must develop to ensure continued growth for themselves and their organizations. To learn more about Skillsoft leadership courses, request free access.

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