The idea that corporate Australia is capable of developing leaders of the future appears to be in question. Could it be that traditional leadership practices are no longer keeping up with the demands of a new generation of workers or the pace of the digital age?
“Virtually every company is talking about developing their leadership pipeline, but the alarming reality is that only 8% of Australians strongly believe Australia encourages the development of great leaders”
Sarah Liu, Entrepreneur & Leadership Strategist, The Dream Collective
We recently conducted extensive research into the Future of Leadership in Australia, and our findings support the perceived workplace sentiment that successful development of leaders is vital for future business success. Applying a fresh, modern-thinking approach and overhaul to existing leadership practices will be key in effectively undertaking this important corporate transformation. Our third leadership article looks at what needs to be done.
Old to New: The leadership paradigm
Take a moment to reflect on some current foundation ideas of leadership - communication, influence and motivation. Are they still relevant for the teams working in your business today? Or is there a new paradigm pushing your organisation towards a mandatory rethink of traditional tactics and their place in the context of future leadership?
Conclusively, our research revealed that more dynamic, inclusive and collaborative forms of leadership development are expected by corporate teams today. Their top-ranked expectations of what best practice organisational based leadership training should include cover: mentoring (60%), collaboration (57%) and team decision-making.
Important leadership development strategies
In addition, survey participants’ expectation of leaders today extends to desired characteristics of authenticity, emotional intelligence and creativity, further supporting the argument that a traditional, top-down and decision-making approach in business is quickly becoming a detractor of employee engagement and motivation.
Building new leadership foundations
Realigning thinking around leadership capabilities is quickly becoming non-negotiable. With just 15% of the World's one billion full-time workers feeling engaged at work (Gallup World poll), a new generation of bright and enthusiastic millennials joining the workforce and digital technology rapidly impacting businesses, we believe the time for that realignment is now.
Typically, annual performance reviews have been the dedicated time and place for HR to assess retrospective performance and results, discuss work practices and consider training pathways for team members and future leaders. This protracted (frequency and timeframe) development method is no longer hitting the mark with the younger millennial workforce who are looking for regular “constructive conversations on work strategies” (page 30, Future of Leadership report) to support and drive their career purpose.
Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends has identified “design thinking” as a potential solution for helping businesses adopt a more modern, relevant approach to supporting leadership development. In essence, “design thinking” is intended to focus and support the individual and their experience, not business process. Ongoing conversation replace reviews. Bosses become Coaches. A sense of purpose trumps a paycheck. Job development, not job satisfaction is a primary motivator.
Developing future leaders
Leading others is a huge responsibility. Effective leaders need to be able to manage and accomplish their own workload while also finding quality time to mentor their staff, positively contributing to team-decision making and taking a collaborative approach in reaching business outcomes where appropriate. Leaders of the future will not simply be defined by their expertise and experience.
So how can organisations begin to pivot leadership training and development? What can they do to define a new path towards mentoring upcoming leaders to include concepts of innovation, growth, inclusion, teamwork, and collaboration?
It may feel as though there are too many “desirable” traits for you and your HR teams to build into your leadership development and mentoring programs. Here are 3 we think offer a strong starting point:
Teach ways that encourage leaders to speak, really listen to and gather genuine insights and feedback from their teams. This can help with making more efficient business decisions with the added benefit of simultaneously keeping people engaged.
“Having an ability to listen and accept advice as opposed to being the person in the room who has all the answers.”
Terry Svenson, CEO, Cerebos
Promote transparency. The reality is, people like working with people who are genuine. They are more likely to have a more positive response to a project, challenge or workplace change if there is clear understanding for the reasons behind it.
“It’s about being real, admitting mistakes, being prepared to show that you’ve learned and being prepared to change”
Radek Sali, Former CEO Swisse Wellness
Create a humble leadership mind-set. When an individual or team feels that their leader accepts mistakes and encourages learning and growth from failure, including their own, this can foster a more respectful and supportive working environment.
“You have to acknowledge that the strength of the company comes from the team and working in a much more collegiate and collaborative way”
Robbie Cooke, CEO, Tatts Group
Rethinking your business’s leadership model is not an easy challenge. Invite the person or group responsible to the C-Suite and board for building leaders to be part of the evolution strategy. Identify the people in the business who will embrace leading in a digitally transforming world and be open-minded to promoting younger people into leadership roles to afford them the opportunity of managing teams and projects with senior support.
Who knows, you may even leverage their views on technology and work practice to help reverse mentor the traditionalists in your workplace.