Leadership is the most important condition for success in organizations. Quality of products and services, improvement of sales results and innovation are all positively influenced by leadership development within a company. Leading organizations believe development for executives and managers should be an integrated part of their company strategy. Globalization, company growth, and the continuous introduction of new technologies require new skills for company leaders. In the end, it is leadership that determines the economic performance of the company.
Executives Are Taking Charge of Their Own Development
Research shows that executives who take care of their personal development have a competitive advantage. Leadership development has also a big influence in the way employees can exploit their knowledge and competencies, and also enhances the retention of talented staff.
Organizations are now offering more and more proactive leadership development within individual development plans. According to a survey of the American Management Association (AMA), more than 25% of organizations spend more than one-third of their annual training budget on leadership development programs. Some of the latest leadership development approaches include:
- External leadership development programs organized by universities, executive training institutes and training through professional companies
- Internal leadership training programs
- Temporary ‘stretch’ assignments which help an individual to develop new skills and competencies
- International assignments to obtain new experiences
- External leadership training organized by consultants
- Job rotation
- Formal mentoring programs
Of course, not all learning takes place in a formal training situation. Experience based on internal and external studies for the US Department of Labor (1995) into the way in which high performing leaders learn, indicates that formal training is just 10% of how people learn.
High-Teach, High-Tech, High-Touch
In the current competitive market, Human Resource professionals always try to find ways to organize training in the most effective way. Some options:
- High-Teach methods are all methods aimed at the person to ensure that learning takes place as effectively, pleasantly and efficiently possible. High-Teach is all about learning and lesson methods. From an initial interview, specific learning objectives for the participant are formulated, and the learning methods and instruments are adapted to the participants, their context and the characteristics of the competencies.
- High-Tech methods are all the applications and instruments which can be offered for preparation, deepening or development of subjects on-line with a computer
(e-Learning). E-Learning is common for both applications training (learning to work with software packages) and for general managerial skills. This method is usually very efficient; a participant can learn at a moment of his choice wherever he is. By means of the computer, you can gather knowledge, but real insight in your own person, or to practice skills and behaviors, you’ll need to interact with others. The computer doesn’t offer that interaction, yet the bulk of your development always takes place in relation to others.
- High-Touch methods are all working methods which are aimed to deepen and intensify contact with the participant. This process requires confidence and security for openness, and the courage to explore. It is always the mutual connection which makes the moment instructive. Inviting people to openly explore new ideas is the nature of High-Touch.
Coaching is considered as a flexible and confidential communication from both sides in which an executive can give feedback, and receive support and recommendations. Executive coaching is organized in three different manners.
- Feedback Coaching is direct feedback given within the framework of a personal development plan, and addresses specific questions (duration: on average up to three months).
- In-Depth Coaching is a close and deep relationship between the executive manager and a coach. During the sessions, they work on specific and mostly personal questions (average duration: from six up to twelve months).
- Substantive Coaching provides leaders with support to address substantively complex questions with the objective to increase skills, capacities and competencies (duration: variable).
In successful leadership development programs, several methods are often used. Support from top management and a strong link to strategic questions are conditions for success. The outcome of the programs must help the managers to solve questions from their daily business practice.
Creative and non-traditional programming is becoming more and more important. Traditional course programs in an auditorium are de-emphasized, and there is a clear movement from High-Teach to High-Touch. Some organizations also add High Tech elements to their programs.
Other recent developments include:
- Tailor-made programs developed specifically for the company by consultants and universities in which current questions and strategies are carefully observed.
- The development of ‘action learning’ programs such as the so-called ‘journey programs’ in which managers are exposed to problems which can only be solved through good teamwork and perseverance.
- Elaboration of personal development plans with coupled feedback, coaching and execution of specific tasks.
- Increasing attention to acquiring technical skills and sharing knowledge.
In my next post, I will provide additional, in-depth insights into several of these recent innovations.
Organizations have to deal with a range of challenges to anchor leadership. Research has shown (Tichy, 1997) that successful organizations have several leaders, at each level of the organization. This starts at the top. Leaders with an established reputation and a track record of success are the best learning masters for others and future leaders. Developing leadership in an organization is not possible without the commitment of the top leaders in the organization.
More About Lex: