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5 ways to accelerate your leadership pipeline

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Fact: modern-day leadership is challenging. 

Over the last two decades, changes in the business context have completely redefined what leadership means today. We have come a long way from when leadership was about a senior executive directing his or her team in the pursuit of an organisation’s goals.

That kind of leadership was “personality-driven” — propelled by an individual’s dominant traits and characteristics. Companies today cannot survive with that kind of leadership. 

We have all heard about leaders and companies that didn’t want to change with the times, and how they were not able to survive the downfall of their own making. The pace of disruption is high and demands for time, results and output are not slowing down — and the models of leadership and leaders have changed to emphasise effectiveness and shared focus. The modern workplace needs a different leadership style and mindset. Ideally, each individual in the company is able to look at himself or herself as a leader and contribute in ways that help the team and move the organisation forward. Managers cannot just be managers anymore — they are also expected to inspire their teams and develop them for the future.

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For instance, in this disruptive age, the responsibility for innovation cannot remain solely with top management. Organisations need innovation to come from everywhere and realise that they need to have a culture of innovation. However, to build that culture, they need to have leaders who understand this and are able to engage their teams to innovate. 

Successful leadership is no longer synonymous with achievement; it is not just about business growth anymore. To be effective in today’s fast-paced and complex world, a leader needs to be agile, have a sense of purpose and strategic vision and be inspirational and engaging. He or she also needs the ability to deal with ambiguity and complexity, and be able to coach and build teams and be innovative — all at the same time. 

Leadership acceleration is essential

Take a look at recent statistics on the future of our global workforce: 84 per cent of organisations today anticipate a shortfall of leaders in the next five years. Ten thousand Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) retire each day, and nearly half of all millennials (those born between 1983 and 2000) will make up the workforce by 2020. 

How can organisations create leaders who have the knowledge, skills, experience and wisdom to close the gap of skills and experience that the Baby Boomers will leave? 

Effective leadership is the only way to manoeuvre through this, and prepare for the future. Organisations need to define what leadership means for them, and to have in place both a sturdy existing leadership and a solid pipeline of capable executives who have the skills and the character needed to take up leadership roles in the near future. This is what makes leadership acceleration not only essential, but indispensable. 

Leadership — how to develop and coach individual leaders, leadership teams, and build organisational capability — needs to be made easier for leaders today, who are busier than ever. 

Advancement can no longer be left only to those who have years of experience. Though rising budgets for corporate learning and development signify that many organisations realise the need for accelerating leadership development, not many use those budgets to accelerate leadership development at all levels. 

The need for more leaders sooner than later requires us to think differently about how to form leaders. We will need to think differently about talent readiness: replacing some of the work-based experiences and time for growth we once relied on to populate our succession plans and leadership benches. 

More than ever, organisations need to rely on all available talent to step up and step in to leadership. This means leadership is now synonymous with inclusion. Gone are the days where leaders learned about “differences” in basic diversity training, or simply took for granted that there was a dominant “way” to lead that was representative of the majority who were in power.

Five ways to develop your talent now

All leaders, with an eye on developing future generations of them, will need to question deeply held assumptions about what leadership looks like and facilitate ways for everyone to step up. Specifically: 

  1. How we interview, coach and review the performance of diverse talent must be grounded in bias-awareness and an insatiable curiosity and openness. We can’t afford to shut out those who can’t — or won’t — lead. This means thinking differently and openly about everything, from where and how we get work done to the communication practices we employ to making room for different styles and approaches.
  2. How we think about “readiness” and “risk taking”. For example, women are still promoted based on performance while men are promoted based on potential. To accelerate leadership, we need to first be aware of beliefs that may be causing such constraints, and take more chances on not only women but members of other under-represented groups who may not look or act the way those in the majority of leadership positions do. We need everyone. 
  3. Leaders developing individual talent on their teams need to follow the “teach, do, feedback, do” cycle to accelerate development. Show your team members the ropes and make them do what is required, before giving them feedback and making them do it again. This cycle should be repeated until they become confident and experts at the task. 
  4. When elevating a talented leader to the fast track, we must ensure that he or she has strong support and sponsorship (advocacy, just-in-time coaching, and development) to succeed. This is applicable to women, in particular, because of the perceived risk often associated with their appointments and the way they tend to speak about themselves (often offering the full picture of their capability, complete with areas they may not feel as confident in).
  5. Coaching skills (early, often, and just-in-time feedback) for leaders will become essential. We know that under-represented populations receive less feedback — ultimately doing them and the organisations they work for a disservice regarding the full value they can add to leadership. 

To be successful and meet the future head-on, organisations must adopt a mindset that grasps the need for leadership development, while challenging conventions and recognising the learning styles of the modern workforce. This would accelerate leadership and create a stronger bench strength that is ready for the next level. Remember: we need everyone.

Register your interest today 
Take the first step towards accelerating leadership in your organisation: attend Linkage’s Global Institute for Leadership Development® (GILD) Asia from July 8 to 12 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore.

Headquartered in Boston, Linkage is a global leadership and organisational development consulting firm. For over 30 years, it has strengthened leaders and helped organisations to build cultures and teams that deliver superior results. 

Since 1988, it has worked with more than 10,000 organisations and touched more than one million leaders worldwide. More than half a million business leaders have benefited from its global institutes and learning events such as GILD. Among its clients are Fortune 500 organisations and leaders, start-ups, and the public sector. 

Linkage operates 11 offices worldwide and works with world-class coaches, consultants, and educators to deliver custom solutions via proven methodologies and action learning approaches. Linkage Asia Pte Ltd, Singapore is the company’s regional headquarters for Asia.