Last week I caught sight of myself on TV - explaining an evolving model of leadership development - with my hands! Too much hand movement 'yes' but a point worth making.
The model I described does have relevance for a cohort where individuals come from different organisations, but it has been in my dialogues with CEO and CHRO that greatest appetite has been revealed for a new model of leadership development for the cohorts within their own organization.
On the one hand (I was waving my right hand around) we have leadership training; typically provided by business schools, personal coaches and an increasing array of independents and consulting firms. That world is changing - rapidly; the demands on leaders are changing, the context in which leaders operate is evolving, how we train is changing and we continue to explore how technology can enable and enhance the process and overall effectiveness of training. These changes are important, but each type of provider tends to think about the future of training from their own legacy point-of-view and available resources.
On the other hand (now I was waving my left hand around) are the issues and challenges that organisations are actually facing and the leaders are expected to address. Leaders that successfully resolve issues and overcome challenges create value; whilst during the process of resolving the issue creates new knowledge, generates innovation and builds up experience.
The model of Leadership Development that is becoming more popular is (I bring my hands together!) facilitating the cohort of leaders-in-training to directly address and actually be responsible to resolve the most pressing issues facing the organisation. Creating value for the organization and enriching their personal experience whilst developing their leadership skills. I call this Application Centred Leadership Development (not a very catchy name, but it gets the point across). Learning whilst Doing; where the 'doing' is solving a business-critical issue and much of the 'learning' is leadership competencies.
To accelerate the development of leaders and increase the return on investment in training, start by identifying the business-critical issues that the organization must resolve (not the 'nice-to-have' questions that often become training projects). Design the development journey with the perspective of solving the business critical issue, as an obligation. Ensure that during the journey you equip the executives with the desired leadership, teaming and process skills as well as the techniques, tools and perspectives to successfully solve the issue in a timely manner.
At this point, for the camera, I had both hands held palms together with fingers spaced out (this was the part where I was definitely waving my hands around too much!). I turn my hands so that the right hand is upper most. This represents a programme that is designed from the perspective of leadership training, we 'know' that to make the learning stick it has to be applied (represented by my left hand, now hidden below the right). i.e. the programme is designed with leadership competencies in mind and a by-product is the output from the exercises and projects that the individuals and groups work on. I twist my hands over so that the left hand is now upper most and the right is hidden below. The alternative model is that we design a process that leads the cohort to resolve the business-critical challenge facing the organization. The 'by-product' of this process is the personal development of the individuals, however we can deliberately build up the leadership skills training and emphasise personal development.
The growing interest in Application Centred Leadership Development is, I think, primarily driven by the increasing hunger for ROI, tangible value is created by the solutions created as well as the less tangible value resulting from the leadership competency development. There are also other benefits such as heightened motivation in the groups that have successfully addressed an important issue for the organization and more effective embedding of the leadership skills as they themselves have lived through their own story of application - a 'live case' they will always remember.
However, much as the customers (CEO, CHRO) may want Application Centred Leadership Development, few existing 'vendors' are able to provide it, as a combination of skills is required which traditionally exist separately in different types of service provider. Application Centred Leadership Development requires a 'mash' between a top business consultancy, capable of designing and managing through the process to solve the business-critical issue, combined with the learning design expertise and facilitation skills typically only found in top business schools.
I parted my hands for effect but the interviewer had the last word... "But, is it feasible for business schools to support solving business-critical issues in a timely fashion through leadership training.... or will it be business consultants that develop real expertise in leadership training despite the poor showings to-date". I didn't get to share my answer in the interview, but so that you know...... I think that a new business model is required, one aligned with the evolving customer focus for ROI from Leadership Development and that is responsive to the rapid rate of evolution of the context of the client organization.....maybe the seeds can be found in Leadership Consulting.
A business consultant and educator; focusing on global and regional firms operating in multiple fast changing contexts. Dr. Steve has consulted with major corporations on strategies and operations globally, Asia, Western Europe and UK. Dr. Steve is also an accomplished executive trainer and educator, with particular depth of experience in business strategy and management practice in Asia.