Are You Getting Leadership Development Right?

March 3rd, 2016 by

leadership developmentIn today’s post, CAI’s HR Business Partner Tom Sheehan shares strategies HR professionals can take to ensure their next generation of leaders are prepared to fill the shoes of their predecessors and lead their business to future success. 

One topic that is a constant point of dialogue for HR professionals is leadership development. The quality of leadership, more than any other factor, often determines the success or failure of an organization. Leadership development helps to improve leadership quality by ensuring that leaders possess the competencies to achieve the organization’s strategy, continue to improve the organizational culture, and strengthen organizational capabilities.

The best investment an organization can make is in the development of its future leaders. Such an investment yields both short-term and long-term dividends. In the short-term, leaders will be better prepared for the challenges they face in their current roles. They will also be more likely to help foster a learning culture if they themselves are an active participant in learning.

Additionally, and more importantly, the risk associated with leadership departures is greatly reduced by improved better bench strength that is a consequence of leadership development. Many organizations fail to adequately develop the next generation of people who will replace individuals in these leadership roles. Making matters worse is the fact that a significant number of baby-boomers will be retiring in the next 5 years.

On one hand, the responsibility for an organizational commitment to developing future leaders begins with the executive team.

On the other hand, HR should own all talent processes and must play a key role in spotlighting the issue and driving the leadership development and succession planning processes.

Forward-looking HR professionals should begin the process by answering these questions:

  1. What are we doing to prepare our next generation of leaders?
  2. Is our pipeline filled with the talent needed to carry out our organization’s strategy?
  3. Who is the ‘person in charge’ of developing our new leaders?
  4. Is leadership development an organizational priority?
  5. How are our top leaders involved?

Where to Start

Step 1: Align with strategy

Ensure that the leadership development efforts are aligned to the organization’s mission, vision, values, and strategic plan. Senior leaders also must accept that leadership development is a lengthy process.

Step 2: Create common set of values

Ensure that there is a common set of leadership values and standards that permeate everything the organization does including-  recruiting, hiring, succession planning, and performance management.

A good starting point for the values may include the following:

  • Results Focus
  • Accountability
  • Respect for Others
  • Leveraging Diversity
  • Effective Communication
  • Building Trust

Step 3: Communicate the philosophy

Create a leadership development philosophy statement that defines the principles the organization champions. A leadership development philosophy provides direction for those crafting the plan and a communication tool to help the organization understand leadership development.

Step 4: Agree upon objectives

Make certain that all leaders are aligned to the following objectives:

  1. Make improving bench strength a top priority (including succession and retention plans)
  2. Ensure each leader takes responsibility for developing future leaders
  3. Measure the business results of leadership development
  4. Making learning an organizational priority
  5. Create formal development plans for emerging leaders

Lack of true engaged support from current leaders is one of the key reasons that leadership development fails. Your role as an HR professional is to help senior leaders see leadership development as a strategy as opposed to being the project du jour. Identifying and improving the quality of leaders must be a top priority to ensure a filled pipeline of experienced employees ready to be placed.

For any further questions about how you can support leadership development, please give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any suggestions as to how to improve leadership development, we’d love to hear them in the comments section!

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