The five characteristics of effective leadership development activities
Readiness of the organisation
Probably the most important element is the concrete need to develop leaders. Whether as part of a larger talent strategy or an exemplary program for selected individuals, all development activities must be geared to organizational needs. What is more, the management team must provide its own time and dedication as well as resources to demonstrate the willingness of the activities. Sometimes it is helpful to communicate the link to the overall strategy, sometimes it helps to reformulate the talent strategy. Clear communication within the organization and beyond strengthens future leaders in their role and helps to release the additional energy they need. It is also a symbol of the entire organization, both to understand the concrete necessity and to support future leaders in their efforts.
In order to develop leadership, it must be clear what the term stands for. What are the values, mentalities and competencies associated with it, what is the common understanding of being a leader? Who are the role models for what kind of leadership? Leadership is understood as an individual characteristic, as a field of relationships or as the result of adaptive actions. What stories are told about extraordinary leadership skills? Are these part of case studies? Does the organization talk about it? The desired leadership culture, supported by future leaders, should not only be part of leadership programs, but also visible to the entire organization. Leadership needs succession, the right alignment is a key component to follow.
Focus on the right people
“A fool with a tool is still a fool” – effective leadership development ensures the intelligent identification of talents, preferably in such a way that the entire organization can participate. Future executives must be involved with the organization. Even if the selection is usually made by only a handful of people, it should be clear from a distance (organization) who has been identified and why. It not only drives development activities forward, but also sets the direction for the entire organization in terms of what factors are important for the future of the organization. At least it shows a team of future managers, at best it shows the values that executives stand for.
Bringing real life into play
In most companies,”Leadership Development” is a bonus for day-to-day work. Instead of becoming an additional playground with additional rules, it should be closely linked to daily work and life. Authentic leaders can focus their energy on their personal development areas, action learning shows real challenges and gives the organization signals for new solutions. When managers talk to future leaders about their own leadership experience, they can build personal networks that will be critical to the future of the company. Joint reflections on the challenges of real-life management bring the benefits of retrospective thinking and enable management to learn and grow. Moreover, it can be the ground to design individual or organizational routes, with the aim of learning something about the current unknown.
Successful leadership development requires dedicated experts who take care of the management development process and advise the leadership team in a leading role. Experienced managers with a healthy interest in people are a good source for successful talent development. They can use their seniority to reconcile the long-term need for a well-equipped talent pipeline with a short-term assessment of the placement of a well-equipped successor. Talent management systems can provide a good basis for talent identification as long as the tools are consistent with the objectives of the leadership team. Carefully elaborated activities make a difference both for managers and for the entire organization, demonstrating to managers what they will multiply with their teams. The more talent development is perceived by these teams as an effective investment in the future of the organisation, the more the organization can follow its future leaders.
Design your development activities
These elements are linked to each planned leadership development activity with the aim of enriching the diversity of leadership skills, knowledge, identity, characteristics or motivation. It can be a formal executive education programme, a few coaching sessions or a self-organised set of experiments that an executive wants to conduct himself or herself.