In a disruptive and volatile corporate environment, how can leadership development arm leaders with the mindset, skills and behaviours to continually adapt and develop?
To say the world has changed in recent times is an understatement. The pace of digital disruption has exceeded the ability of many companies to develop leaders equipped for the changing environment, but those that are embracing it are flourishing.
Adaptability, innovation and collaboration have become more than buzz words, they are the key to leaders and organisations surviving and thriving in this constantly changing environment.
With the rate of disruption predicted to accelerate, the paradigm for leadership has changed. Rather than being perfect leaders who are blindly followed, leaders today need to adapt to changing environments, be innovative in order to make decisions quickly and collaborate with others so that they can draw on their skills and knowledge at the point-of-need. With the right leadership, organisations can harness opportunities and thrive in the new and evolving environment. But can leadership development programs keep up?
Traditional leadership programs assume that we need our leaders to know more, be exposed to new models, read more or simply be better trained. In fact what we need is to support leaders to learn from and through their own work, using development methods that adapts with them.
A new approach to learning for a new form of leadership
It is no longer enough to design a static program and expect it to meet future business needs. Just as we ask our leaders to be adaptable, learning also needs to be adaptable.
Modern leadership development programs must deliver a carefully architected framework with defined outcomes that is based on a solid foundation of human-centred design and, most importantly, be designed to be contextualised and responsive to each cohort and each individual.
This ‘freedom within structure’ enables flexibility for development to adapt and evolve with the changing needs of each individual and organisation, while maintaining the integrity of the program. However, fluidity is perilous if it is not carefully managed and supported by the knowledge of what works in learning and leadership development.
Five questions to ask of modern leadership development programs
These five questions must be at the heart of any successful modern leadership development program:
- Is it adaptable? Is the program flexible so that it can meet the evolving needs of the organisation and its leaders, and provide reliable learning at the point of need? Are there clear links between the program purpose, organisation goals, performance outcomes and application to work, and can these be continually revised throughout the program?
- Is it personalised for each learner? Is the learning determined or generated by the learner for their unique development needs, yet still aligned to organisational requirements? Creating personal relevance for learning is critical. The most successful learning is generated by the learner and can be applied immediately.
- Is it work driven? Is the learning grounded in and drawn from work? Far from being an isolated event learning should provide leaders the opportunity to support and improve their workflow, and to work through their own real work challenges and immediately apply learnings within their workplace.
- Is it results driven? Will the learning create verifiable improvement for the individual and organisation? Learning is an investment; organisations need to witness an improvement in leadership capability and business results, and individuals must clearly see the value of their time investment.
- Is it credible? Is the learning from a trustworthy and credible source? Implementing a program that enables responsive amendments is only possible if supported by a solid foundation of research and human-centred learning design.
The rapidly changing environment generates conditions for unprecedented learning ecosystems. The result is learning that is ‘planted’ within an organisation and grounded in work, yet has the flexibility to grow progressively to address the ongoing evolution of learning needs, and the structure to ensure the realisation of performance and business outcomes.