Leadership Development: The Guide to Getting It Right
As businesses evolve, the requirements of leaders change and skills and behaviours need to be refined. This guide is a collection of articles that will show you why and how to implement a leadership development programme that maintains a high performing team at the top.
By: Leadership Dynamics team
If you are thinking about implementing your own leadership development program, or you want to learn methods for maintaining a consistently high-performing leadership team, we’ve put together this guide to arm you with all the information you need.
Leadership development resources
Why leadership development matters
Why so many leadership development programs fail
The 4 stages of leadership development
Leadership development planning and succession planning
Leadership development resources
As you read through this guide there will be links to our other articles that go into each subject with greater depth. We’ve compiled them all here too:
Why leadership development matters
Why is leadership development important? Most business leaders agree they should develop potential leaders so they are ready to handle the responsibilities of a top role. But many companies only pay lip service to leadership development programmes, without truly planning them out and implementing them effectively.
Continuous improvement happens on the job, but a targeted training programme can consolidate the skills and strengths needed for a specific role, while bolstering areas for improvement. Leadership development programmes can equip current and future leaders with the tools to improve their organisations in the following ways.
1. Improving financial performance
Leadership is our most important value creation lever. Having competent leaders in place will inevitably reduce costs, drive new lines of revenue, and improve customer satisfaction. A significant impact on the bottom line.
2. Boosting employee engagement
Good leaders will inspire and motivate the people around them to join them in their vision. This is important for attracting and retaining the talent that will help a business execute their strategy.
Employee attrition can be costly both in terms of hiring and its negative impact on customer experience. An inability to effectively retain, for example, relationship managers who have painstakingly built trust with clients; or customer success managers who operate a highly responsive customer service will cause a noticeable drop in CX. Leadership teams dictate the culture, so the higher up the hierarchy, the bigger the impact will be, which is why you should always have a succession plan in place to prevent a drop in organisational effectiveness.
3. Anticipate and react to change
Training leaders to be more agile and adaptable helps organisations navigate change and market disruption, and a company that invests in their managers’ and senior leaders’ problem solving abilities is more likely to overcome unforeseen challenges.
While agility is key to be able to pivot when necessary, weathering these storms requires a high degree of resilience, especially for senior leaders who need to inspire confidence in those around them, and remain available and hands-on in difficult situations. Building up levels of self-awareness and emotional self management can help leaders train to be resilient.
Why leadership development programs fail
Companies can get frustrated with these programs because they don't see the desired return on investment, either because the training is out of date, is not applicable in the real world, or because learners move to other companies when they’ve finished their courses.
1. They lack context
Many leadership development programmes are one-size-fits-all services that do not take into account the strengths and weaknesses of individuals, nor do they account for the different reasons each trainee is on the course. They assume that the same group of skills or style of leadership works in all situations.
Making a targeted and contextualised program can help you make sure every penny of your training budget is being properly utilised.
2. They are too reliant on classes
A good leadership development program will include a mix of methods to cater for different learning styles. Adults only retain 10 percent of what they hear in a classroom, so they must be bolstered with on-the-job training, coaching and mentoring, self-assessment tools, feedback sessions and networking opportunities.
3. They misunderstand the importance of behaviours
Being a good leader is not just about how much experience you have or how much you know. It’s also about how you choose to act.
People begin with innate behaviours from an early age; some are naturally good communicators or problem solvers, while others need to work hard to develop those behaviours if they are going to be good leaders. Understanding who is a natural fit for a leadership role can help you choose the right people to fast track with leadership development.
Take our PACE test to see your own leadership behavioural profile.
4. They select the wrong people
Have you been disappointed when you’ve spent the training budget on people who take their new learnings and join another company? Or when they turn out not to be quite right for the leadership role you lined them up for?
This is why choosing the right people to train is so important. At the program planning stage, identify those high-potential employees who align naturally with your company culture and vision and already have the innate behaviours that work well on a leadership team.
Identifying the people whose skills and goals align most naturally with your company will need less coaxing to do their jobs well. And if their behaviours complement those of the other members of the team, they will function more effectively and ensure the success of your organisation.
Of course, it’s difficult to identify the right people, which is where people analytics tools (like ours) can help paint an objective profile with data.
The 4 stages of leadership development
How do you start developing your talent into leaders? We recommend the following.
1. Identify the qualities needed
To make your program as contextualised and relevant as possible, first you need to understand what skills and behaviours are ideally suited for the role.
2. Assess future leaders objectively
Who are you going to train? Gone are the days of “gut feel” and CVs. You need a complete picture of your potential leaders skills, experience and behaviours, using data to make your decisions objectively and in the best interests of the company.
3. Make learning and development integral
Leadership development only works when it is part of the culture of your company. People are busy with the day-to-day and more immediate tasks will often take priority over the long-term. Showing your future leaders that it is acceptable and even encouraged to place a high importance on training and development will make it more effective.
4. Create support systems for development
Creating support systems is critical to the effectiveness of your leadership development plan. As we mentioned earlier, relying solely on formal training classes is not effective for busy people. They need systems that help them expand their self-awareness, including feedback sessions with relevant leaders, mentoring programmes and access to self-assessment tools.
Read our full article How to Develop Leadership Qualities for a High Performing Team for a deeper dive into every step to developing your leaders.
Key leadership development areas
What abilities should you focus on developing in order to become a good leader? Communication, decision making, problem solving and mentoring.
Each of these development areas requires a degree of emotional intelligence. After all, leaders lead people not products. Improving each component of EI – your self awareness, your emotional self management, social awareness and relationship building – is fundamental to developing leadership qualities.
Read our full article on The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership Development for a deeper dive into each development area and how harnessing your emotional intelligence can speed up your learning.
Leadership development and succession planning
Succession planning is key to ensuring you have the right people in place at all times to prevent any drops in performance. Especially important when you are on a strict timeline, such as with value creation plans for private equity portfolio companies.
A key part of succession planning is developing potential leaders so that they are ready when the time comes to assume a specific leadership role.
Read our full article Leadership Development Planning for a Culture of Continuous Learning to learn more about how to lay out and execute a programme that will continually improve your potential leaders.
How to incorporate people analytics into a leadership development programme
The most effective leadership development programmes use data-backed people analytics to help them at many stages of the process. For example 1) identifying the leadership roles that will need replacing and when, 2) identifying potential leaders by assessing them objectively and 3) using the profiles to tailor training and development specifically for them.
In order to get a deeper understanding of how well a person will perform in a given situation, we need to look at their behaviours. Most well-known psychometric tests focus on personality traits; but it is behaviours that underpin those traits.
Our behavioural assessment tool, PACE, stands for Pragmatism, Agility, Curiosity and Execution. These are the four overarching behaviours we have identified that are themselves made up of a number of sub-behaviours.
Knowing how each behaviour works together across a leadership team is key. A balance of people scoring differently on different behaviours will make up a more diverse and therefore effective team.
Use relevant data
People analytics tools work best when they use data that is relevant. Most well-known psychometric tests rely on surveys from the general population, which is too broad to have any relevance when hiring leaders.
More than 4000 executives have taken the PACE test, which has built a relevant dataset to create archetypes that suit each C-suite role. This is not to say there are some outliers who perform well outside of the archetypal profile, as they are made up of an average of PACE profiles. Take the test yourself and discover your behavioural profile. It will give you an idea of where your opportunities for development lie.