Leadership development – the who, what and why
Leadership plays a vital role in organisational success, retention, and engagement. Much has been researched and written about the impact leadership has on organisational performance and productivity with many studies concluding that developing strong and effective leaders provides a competitive advantage and has a direct link to increased results and employee engagement.
In an increasingly digital world, this is becoming more difficult to achieve.
With the number of options for virtual communication now available, a growing proportion of employees now work at a distance; from home or on a different site to other employees within their team. According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30% of Australians now regularly work from home in their main profession. That number is growing, having risen from 20% in the last 15 years.] As such, leaders need to develop skills to best manage the challenges that arise from having remote team members and virtual teams.
But before we dive into who is responsible for leadership development activities it’s important to understand the differences between management and leadership so that they are correctly targeted. Management involves managing and controlling a group to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute to organisational success.
So, who’s responsible for leadership development?
Leadership excellence should be driven from the top down and thus the CEO and senior management team – those who’s primary role is to lead – should be the champions of leadership development.
HR also has a driving role when it comes to advising, designing, supporting and guiding leadership development activities and programs. HR must lead by example and provide guidance, support, and help to drive leadership initiatives. It is critical that HR partners closely with the senior management team to help plan and implement effective strategies for leadership building within the organization.
Types of leadership development activities
HR have a range of internal and external activities at their disposal that can help increase leadership capability, some of which we will explore below.
Internal development activities include: on-the-job training, coaching, mentoring, conferences, job rotation and secondments, higher duties, networking, informal learning sessions, attending workshops and reading articles.
External development activities include: formal training sessions or workshops, coaching, mentorships and executive leadership training programs.
Coaching is a form of development activity leaders often benefit from. Supporting leaders and managers in this way can help them in increasing work performance and enhances their awareness of social, work and personal behaviours. It aims to help the coachee learn in a way that encourages them to keep growing as, as opposed to a one-off training day where skills are learnt and often later forgotten.
It is a one-to-one style of training that is based on asking rather than telling and helps to provoke thinking rather than giving directions in such a way that it permanently instils continuing positive work behaviours.
Emotional intelligence training
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. The World Economics Forum lists emotional intelligence as the sixth most important skill employees will need to thrive in future workplaces.
People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they are feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people. The more a leader can manage each of these areas, the higher their emotional intelligence and thus effectiveness in leading their teams.
Not only are conferences an opportunity to hone leadership skills by listening to highly qualified and inspirational leaders but attending with a team provides an opportunity to bond. Leaders and their teams can learn about each other, and in breaks from talks, continue the conversation about how the material practically applies to their own roles.
At conferences, networking is almost guaranteed, meaning leaders may find new clients or collaborators. Lastly, as a break from the workplace itself, conferences can be a way to kick-start motivation in a non-work environment so leaders can go back fresh and full of ideas.
The advantage of these courses is they can be fit into almost any schedule. Because all that’s required is a computer and internet connection, online courses are a flexible way of providing leadership training without the cost or time required to bring leaders from different continents and time-zones together in one physical location.
However, this value may be lost if those who take the courses disengage through lack of self-motivation. There are no physical trainers there ensuring understanding of the content, and they cannot converse with others to cement the information they are learning. Often these courses work best as a part of an integrated learning strategy combined with other leadership development options.
Seminars and Workshops
Professional development seminars and workshops for leaders are abundant. A quick Google search for “Leadership Workshop” yields millions of results. It’s important, however, to not become carried away by flashy websites and buzzwords. While there are many options for leadership development, not all are of the same calibre. Decide what it is that you want to achieve from a seminar or workshop, the funds available, and the time you are willing to allocate. From there you can find something that best suits your company needs.
While overall leadership has an influence on job satisfaction for your employees, this affected by leadership styles. It is important to monitor the success of implementing any kind of training. If development activities are not yielding results, it may be time re-evaluate your approach. Remember to ask for feedback about all leadership development activities. Even if something seems to be working, engagement and satisfaction are key to ensure you retain your strong leaders for years to come.