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Leadership for today and tomorrow?

By Sandy Wilson - Posted on 22 January 2013

Sandy Wilson, Head of Executive Education at Strathclyde Business School’s Centre for Corporate Connections looks at the changing face of leadership in the modern business world and provides an insight into the best ways of striking the right balance.

Are you the right leader for your time and place?

Does your organisation have the right leaders for this time and place?

Despite the apparently endless debate on ‘management vs. leadership’ and the likely presence of ‘born’ or ‘natural’ leaders, our experience creating bespoke Executive Education in recent years tells us that leadership has changed. The organisations we partner to create leadership programmes need answers to problems which are as much a consequence of changes in their markets as they are a result of the decisions of their leaders.

Ah, but a leader is not the sum of their decisions but something more than that…I hear you say. True, I agree, but the sum of their decisions is at least an indicator of the type of leader they are and the methods by which they deploy leadership skills.

It seems reasonable to claim that different skills were required for success in business in the past since the context was different. Challenges were different. The pace was different…and perhaps more importantly opportunities and competitors were different.

Therefore, was leadership different?

Top organisations are talking to us today about how we can help their managers become more entrepreneurial, innovative and commercially savvy and they are labelling this ‘better leadership’. The basic requirement is centred around ‘more with less’ as an implication of streamlining in the last few years which has focussed on reducing costs, most notably headcounts.

Many of the most successful leaders we observe have a very wide knowledge of their company and are well connected across many different levels. It is by truly understanding their organisation, their people and their market that leaders can drive change effectively.

So what areas should companies consider if they want to support the identification and development of potential future leaders?

  • Encourage innovation - create an environment and a leadership culture where employees in all areas feel confident about pitching new ideas and suggesting strategic and operational improvements
  • Identify talent - develop a comprehensive appraisal process based on results and behaviours while tracking employee development to identify potential
  • Align talent development to organisational goals – take a structured approach to talent development, embedded within organisational strategy - this ensures engagement at the top and also increase organisations’ ability to attract, retain and engage high-potential employees
  • Create flexibility in career development - provide opportunities for career development across a business. Developing a career within a number of different roles increases the variety of emerging leaders’ experience and equips them with a wider knowledge
  • Focus on strengths – much of the focus in development plans is based around an employee’s weaknesses. There are numerous positive benefits for people when plans are focussed on developing existing strengths
  • Invest in training and education - training programmes and business education offer emerging leaders an opportunity to gain new perspective. An improved knowledge of the developments in business theory also improves their ability to make decisions based on wider organisational, industrial and economic factors.

Companies are now becoming more vocal about wanting to develop new ways of working which respond to the specific needs of their business. They want to encourage potential leaders to become effective, adaptive and innovative. This ambition is helped if candidates can view both their business and their industry differently and that’s what talent development and executive education can offer - a fresh perspective.

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