Unprecedented turbulence and competitive pressure in all sectors mean businesses are increasingly concerned about leadership’s impact. They no longer simply trust that assessment and development will produce results.
Increasingly, we find that Heads of Talent and Leadership Development are asking three big questions:
- How can we keep leadership capability relevant to an external context that’s constantly changing?
- How can we achieve real shifts in leadership behaviour, not just once, but whenever needed to deliver greater impact?
- And how can we ensure that leaders – regardless of career stage – make an impact in the here and now?
1. Create a Development-Led Leadership Strategy
When it comes to building leadership, there are two ways to travel: navigate a course toward a specific destination; or discover new routes in a chosen direction. Talent Management is about navigation – piloting a changing leadership population across the gap to a desired future. By contrast, Leadership Development is about discovery – exploring islands, surviving storms, and being ready to change direction. Answering the three big impact questions requires a development-led Leadership Strategy that sets off from where we really are and discovers what’s possible.
Start with the ‘leadership ask’. What must your leaders achieve and what external context must they weather? Factor in your business and organisational strategies – your intended response to the environment – and the corporate ‘life events’ that lie ahead. Draw together the key leadership challenges and, in turn, the leadership work to be done. And, crucially, specify the mindset and skillsets – and implicit shifts – needed to do it.
Next, analyse the internal context to see how the organisation and its culture might need to change, both to make strategy happen and to foster rather than frustrate new leadership behaviours. Those behaviours will be the joint product of mindset, skillset and organisational context – and context is often the most powerful of the three. Finally, be clear about how, and how much, each influences your leaders’ behaviours to determine how to stage the shifts you want.
2. Implement for Sustained Real-World Impact
Start strategy implementation with a hard look at your leadership capabilities. Measure your individual leaders and your bench strength against the new challenges, mindset and skillsets you’ve defined. Then use the understanding you and your leaders gain from the assessment experience to raise your game. Create development that focuses on real business goals and simulates situations your leaders will encounter. And think about in-the-moment readiness: have leadership teams ‘war game’ upcoming battles – such as making an acquisition, adopting a new business model, or initiating agile working.
Finally, design and kick start the process you’ll use to maintain impact. Go on monitoring the environment and translate what you discover into new mindset, skillset, and context changes that keep you in synch with – or ahead of – the external context. And make re-running your measurement, development and shift cycles a core organisational routine.
The thinking behind a development-led Leadership Strategy is demanding, but it yields insights you won’t get in any other way. The logic is straightforward – define the ‘ask’, understand your strengths, raise your game. And the outcome is real leadership impact for the business.