Are leaders born or made? Based on trait and behavioural theories, this notion can be argued either way. If the question is posed to senior executives and human resources professionals, a vast majority will answer in favour of the latter. Practically speaking, both hold true to some extent. In fact, the real challenge of leadership is not to create followers, but to create effective leaders.
Too often, organisations struggle with the right Leadership Development Programme (LDP). Companies spend millions on leadership development trainings and there are countless books available on the same, but unfortunately, as soon as the training ends, the acquired knowledge, behaviour and so-called action-based strategies wither away too.
There are three common misconceptions about the LDP. One of them is that it is a one-size-fits-all learning session where trainers reveal a success model that can be applied to the leadership development of any organisation. In fact, every individual’s experience varies when it comes to benefiting from these trainings. Another fallacy is that it can be developed or customised without any assessment or proper understanding of the participants and their respective backgrounds. Thirdly, it is often misconceived to be a mixture of several management trainings rolled out for anyone and everyone.
Here are some things to keep in mind to make the most of an LDP:
Context — This is by far the most important aspect of a successful LDP. Before anything else, it is important to identify what purpose and goal does the programme serve? The premise should be specific leadership skills that are carefully aligned with the vision and growth of the organisation.
Continuity — Leadership is a journey and the training programme should be considered a leadership development process. A successful programme should consist of follow-up session(s) to track an individual’s progress. Some companies also extend their trainings for better understanding of concepts in a more personalised and real-world context.
Compare — An organisation should not only be concerned about cost-and-benefit. It should also promote employee development. The hardest part of making comparisons is trying to measure success. But how exactly can an organisation measure leadership? A typical participant survey about how they found the programme and if it was beneficial may completely ignore the goal. Hence, using performance reviews to determine whether the candidate is capable of becoming a leader and deserves a promotion can be a helpful tool.
Content — This is the heart of the programme and consists of the curriculum. For example, Situational Leadership II model is the foundation of many successful leadership curriculums around the world. In order to learn new skills, the programme must incorporate arduous situations that allow learners to hone their skills by applying learned approaches and strategies. The content needs to be based on ‘empirical research’, which uses thoughts of real people in real situations and in the real world. Only then can it leverage success.
Comprehensiveness — LDPs should instil holistic leadership skills that promote innovation, facilitate change and drive performance. According to the Centre for Creative Leadership, four key competencies are vital for leaders: self-awareness, learning agility, communication and influence. However, when mixed with the strategic objectives of the organisation, self-awareness, building relationships, strong business acumen, organisational strategy and integrity form the basis of an enduring LDP.
Clarity — The programme needs to be genuine. This last step is actually a tricky one because there needs to be transparency about who is put through the programme — high performers and senior executives, or mid-level management. An organisation is only as good as its employees, but just because a person wants to attend the training does not in any way make the programme meaningful. Organisations can increase the odds of its success by having a clear sense of their current and future priorities.
Moez Allidina is an OD Trainer at Maktab Learning Solutions and a management lecturer.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 29th, 2015.
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