“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” — President John F. Kennedy
The area of leadership development has exploded in the past 20 years. This is in part as a result of Millennials entering the workforce with a leadership capability gap and a need to address this gap. Many studies has shown that organisations regard a shortage of quality leaders as one of the biggest impediments to organisational growth globally. Findings from the University of Stellenbosch Business School’s Executive Development 2016 survey suggests that South African organisations can do more to improve their leadership development efforts. Recent research has shown that high-performing companies spend one-and-a-half to two times more on leadership development than their competitors.
Human Interest has a dedicated division focussing on employee development, and have created an “Influential Leader” framework comprising of 20 carefully selected competencies that have been linked to positive business results. Our flagship Leadership Development programme is based on this framework.
However, it is not as simple as it sounds. There are many considerations that should be taken into account before embarking on developing leaders. Our experience has revealed five crucial things to consider:
- Overlooking context – Not all organisations are the same. To assume there is a one-size-fits-all leadership development model is simply incorrect. Different organisations put emphasis on different competencies and some ‘general’ competencies need to be applied differently across organisations. The context of an organisation, its business strategy and the operational environment will determine what competency is more important and how it is applied – and thus how it should be developed.
- Not measuring results – Too often, when developing leaders, candidates are assessed on what has been learnt during a programme. This is an acceptable first step, however assessment cannot simply stop there. There needs to be assessments of knowledge application. This refers to how well the learnt aspects are being applied in the workplace. The aim of a programme is to develop people to perform better in the workplace, yet many people do not follow this through. Other aspects that could also be assessed are changes in behaviour, the effect on the organisation’s bottom-line or the number of managerial promotions.
- Training vs Development – The distinction between these two concepts is essential. Training assumes a person lacks a certain skill and is taught that skill. Training also assumes that there is one correct way of doing something. Development on the other hand assumes a person already has potential and focuses on growing it. Development acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all leadership style and has a future-oriented approach.
- Focused on the theoretical – According to McKinsey, adults typically retain just 10% of what they hear in classroom lectures, versus 66% when actually doing. Although understanding the underlying theory of concepts should not be discredited, one needs to also balance it out with ways in which to practically apply the competency. It is simply not helpful, for example knowing what assertiveness means without knowing how to be assertive.
- Lack of support – The desired results of a leadership programme, if new leaders are not given sufficient support in their new roles, are unlikely to show. Just over 60% of the managers that participated in the USB survey believe that their companies provide new leaders with sufficient support to help them cope with their new responsibilities. A lack of support before and after training is likely to negatively impact whether a person chooses to apply what they have learnt.
Deloitte. (2015). Global Human Capital Trends: Leading in the new world of work. Deloitte University Press. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/at/Documents/human-capital/hc-trends-2015.pdf.
Gurdjian, P., Halbeisen, T., & Lane, K. (2014). Why leadership-development programs fail. McKinsey Quarterly. Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/leadership/why-leadership-development-programs-fail.
Kivland, C., & & King, N. (2015). Six reasons why leadership training fails. Retrieved from http://www.learningexecutive.com/CLLC/2015/2015LECoverStory-SixReasonsWhyLeadershipTrainingFails_AResearchReview.pdf.
Malagisi, F. (2015). 9 Reasons Leadership Development Fails. Retrieved from http://www.hci.org/blog/9-reasons-leadership-development-fails.
Myatt, M. (2012). The #1 reason leadership development fails. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/12/19/the-1-reason-leadership-development-fails/#687f1fe76522.
Profiles International (2014). Why leadership development fails (and how to make it a success). Retrieved from https://gcatd.org/resources/Documents/Special%20Interest%20Groups%20(SIGs)/Learning%20LeadLea/Why%20Leadership%20Development%20Fails%20White%20Paper.pdf.
University of Stellenbosch Business School. (2016). The South African Management Index Report 2015 / 2016. Retrieved from http://www.usb-ed.com/ManagementIndexReport/MIR2016.pdf.