Strong leadership is the foundation of any successful organization. Leadership influences employee morale, productivity, and overall company culture. When values of leadership are ingrained at all levels, and employees are able to grow their leadership skills, companies are more successful. Leadership development programs seek to provide individuals with the necessary skills, mindset, and tools to grow into and excel in leadership roles.
We recently co-hosted a joint webinar with OpenSesame titled ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Leadership Development: Global Survey Insights.’ During this webinar, Dan Rust, Head of Global Leadership and Organizational Development at Infopro Learning, and Matthew Bradley, Senior Learning and Development Advisor at OpenSesame, presented valuable statistical insights concerning the progression of both present and future leaders; watch it here.
During the webinar, it was revealed that 42% of emerging leaders expressed discontent with the professional development they receive, characterizing it as inadequate or ineffectual.
So, how do you ensure that your leadership development program truly addresses the needs of your employees and helps build a trustworthy, competent, and authentic leadership team? This blog delves into the intricacies of leadership development, exploring the factors that help individuals fully realize their leadership potential.
The Current State of Leadership: Cynicism, Uncertainty, Decrease in Trust
Over the past few years, a notable shift has occurred in how employees perceive their leaders and the workplace environment. The following data represents a 22-year trend line extracted from the Corporate CultureMap Survey conducted by Dan Rust. It includes global data sourced from organizations such as Gallup, Glint, Gartner, and Unlock EngagementTM.
The Rising Uncertainty
Employee uncertainty is on the rise. Job stability, organizational stability, and the stability of colleagues have all come under scrutiny. The purple line in a 20-year trend shows increased employee uncertainty, with occasional ups and downs. This uncertainty translates into employees questioning the stability of their jobs, organizations, and the people they work with.
Alongside increased uncertainty, cynicism among employees is also on the rise. Cynicism is the inclination of employees to question the authenticity of statements or communications emanating from their respective companies or organizations. In the modern world, baseline levels of uncertainty and cynicism are at an all-time high. Employees are becoming more skeptical about their leaders and the messages they convey.
Decreasing Trust in Leadership
Not surprisingly, the escalating uncertainty and cynicism correlate with a decline in employees’ perception of ethical and authentic leadership. Anecdotal comments from surveys reveal that employees’ experiences, not only in the workplace but also in the broader political and societal context, impact their perception of day-to-day leaders.
The Leadership Crisis and Employee Expectations
The decline in trust in leaders is not limited to the corporate world. The lack of widely respected leaders in society has created a leadership crisis. In the past, some individuals enjoyed broad respect and trust across various levels of society. Finding leaders who command the same respect is more challenging today.
This absence of widespread trust in leaders extends beyond any particular domain or sector. It extends to political, business, and leaders on all scales. When asked about respected leaders today, it’s common to find many people expressing doubts.
Only a portion of the population may express respect for a particular leader, while a substantial segment remains skeptical or indifferent. This creates a complex challenge for those responsible for leadership development, as the bar for effective leadership is higher than ever – and more important than ever.
The survey also examined employee attitudes about their own growth potential, and what they desire from their work and their leaders. They want:
1. More Growth Opportunities: Employees aspire to achieve career and personal development while working in their respective companies. They strongly desire to acquire new knowledge, expand their skills, and progress in their current positions.
2. Faster Career Trajectory: The modern workforce is ambitious. Employees want to progress in their careers faster than in the past.
3. Empathy from Leaders: Employees seek leaders who drive results and care about their well-being, concerns, and development.
4. Work-Life Balance: Many employees value a work-life balance, dedicating their efforts to sustaining harmony between their professional and personal spheres.
5. Meaningful Work: Work that feels meaningful and purposeful is highly valued by employees. They seek a deeper connection to their tasks and responsibilities.
Organizations must emphasize leadership development so that their leaders are more than taskmasters to meet these evolving expectations. They must be mentors, coaches, and emotionally intelligent role models.
Leadership Development and the Competency Model
Organizations can foster a more positive and productive work environment by equipping leaders with the skills and qualities they need to meet the evolving needs of employees. Nonetheless, it is crucial to recognize the challenges that leaders face when transitioning into these new positions.
Leaders often express a tension between their traditional responsibilities and the increasing demands for empathy and emotional intelligence. Many are willing to be more for their employees but lack the knowledge or capacity to do so effectively.
According to The Institute of Leadership survey, nearly 60% of employees have encountered workplace conflicts stemming from generational differences.
Leadership development programs must bridge this gap by providing leaders with the tools and strategies to manage stress and efficiently coach and mentor their teams. This means helping them acquire new skills and teaching them how to apply them in real-world scenarios.
Adapting to New Leadership Competencies
As leadership expectations shift, so do the competency models for leaders. Organizations now require different qualities and skills from their leaders compared to what was needed a decade ago. This change’s extent is inconsistent and fluctuates from one organization to another, depending on their distinct requirement.
The competency model below outlines the distinguishing qualities (leading self, leading others, and leading business) that set leaders apart from their peers. It highlights the skills and attributes relevant to current and prospective leaders. Some key attributes include authenticity, accountability, emotional intelligence, change acceleration, adaptive resilience, business acumen, functional competence, etc.
For this, organizations should regularly revisit and refresh their leadership competency models. A competency model that was effective in the past might no longer apply to the present context. Ensuring alignment between leaders’ skills and the organization’s required skills is essential.
Effective leadership competency models should be:
- Inclusive: They should encompass all dimensions of human diversity, including gender, race, sexuality, neurodiversity, and background.
- Flexible: They should allow adjustments based on the organization’s unique requirements.
- Dynamic: They should evolve to meet the changing demands of leadership in the modern world.
Leadership development is no longer a choice; it’s necessary for any organization seeking to thrive in today’s competitive environment. The shifting competency models and the increasing expectations for leaders underscore the importance of investing in leadership development.
To achieve success, organizations need to embrace change, grow, and empower their leaders with the skills, knowledge, and mindset required to address the demands of today’s workplace.
Are you interested in cultivating your organizational leaders? Reach out to our team of leadership development experts today!