While thinking of employees with the highest potential, leaders likely go straight to top performers

In this era of digital disruption, business requires leadership that can deliver excellence. Organizations that do not have a defined leadership development program restrict their employees from expanding a skill set that can help them to live up to their potential. Leadership training is an essential component of succession planning at every company.

Two of the most consistent traits in good leaders are their willingness to learn from others and their ability to engage in self-awareness activities to better understand themselves. To better understand the nuances of having a leadership program, we got a chance to hear from Kathy Sherwood, who is Vice President of Leadership and Organizational Development at Infopro Learning. Her expertise lies in creating a custom blend of workshops, coaching, simulations and eLearning tools to provide leaders and managers with a competitive advantage. Below are excerpts from the conversation: 

What do you think is the most important skill a leader must have?

Leaders need to take the time for self-reflection and embrace a new set of leadership skills that prepares them to navigate continuous change in this digitally disruptive era. The top leadership skill is continuous learning, including the ability to change the mental models of what it takes to be a good leader in this fast-paced business climate. Leaders need to make continuous changes to their own leadership development to gain the skills required for success in a given timeframe that align with the culture as well as drive the business.

What is your thought process while making a crucial decision for business?

Business decision making is a very critical part of the role of a leader. They need to be substantially informed of the consequences the decision will bring in the current business scenarios. Taking time to go beyond the day-to-day operational decisions that trigger strategic and critical thinking about the options available to move forward. This means bringing together a diverse group of people to consider and weigh the options before making an informed decision.

What does risk mean to you?

Risk in this volatile world means preparing for the unexpected. That can be broken down into processes that create unintended consequences or a competitor that takes us by surprise with an innovation that gives that company a competitive advantage. Business risk is far more common now than ever with changing technologies and the impact of the global marketplace. If planned and executed proficiently, most of the times risk taken in business yield results better than expected.

In the current business scenario, how important is it to train, retain and continuously inspire talent to perform their best?

It is vital to keep your ‘best’ talent. In today’s evolving market, it is even more important because there are many opportunities for talent to aspire to and seek out new opportunities. This means bringing in internal executives and external experts to train our high potential individuals and ensure they continually evolve to become capable and competent leaders prepared for the future. Evolutionary leadership development attributes that leaders need to embrace in order to navigate organizational change in the digital age. 

Is it important for you to allow teams to think creatively on a task rather than following the conventional process? Why?

The digitally disruptive era has resulted in relational complexity, meaning business decisions require communication from a diverse and holistic network of interdependent relationships. Representatives from networks either involved or impacted by business decisions for effective project management and solving business problems benefit from creative thinking to develop alignment and avoid unintended consequences.

How do you make sure that your team’s actions are aligned with the company’s vision? Do you keep reminding them or is it a part of your business actions?

A strong leadership development strategy framework that provides an inspiring message embedded in the company’s culture will be a guidepost to the actions and decisions required by leaders and ultimately all employees. Simplifying the corporate leadership strategy into bite-sized and repeatable messages makes a reflection on business actions a natural part of decision making rather than an afterthought.

What advice would you give to someone who has just taken on a leadership role?

Whether taking on a first-line level position or moving to a new executive level, new leaders require time for self-reflection. Focus first on envisioning what might be different in this new role and what capabilities they need to adopt to be successful. Ongoing leadership development programs need time and include learning from experience, from others and from formal learning journey classes, as well as executive coaching and mentoring. This accelerates the learning curve. Becoming an effective leader requires changing one’s mindset, giving up outdated leadership behaviors and adopting new ones aligned with the organization’s vision, values and business strategies.

For better insights on training and developing high-performing individuals, read Kathy’s latest eBook on High-Potential Leadership Programs that outlines how your L&D department can ensure significant returns on investment through traits like strategic alignment, executive sponsorship and inclusivity. To save time and money, businesses should look for high performing individuals that can be trained and nurtured into result-oriented leaders.

Infopro Learning, a full-service L&D outsourcing company, is committed to make organizational learning a competitive advantage for its partners by delivering modern learning experiences to improve employee performance. We offer a wide range of custom services that help organizations develop and support associates as they grow from individual contributors to senior leaders and promote transformational change.

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