Insights into the Future of Leadership Development

The major reason companies carry out leadership development is to grow the capacity of employees to take up leadership positions. These employees will contribute to the future success of a company or business.

As businesses adapt to survive in a fierce global market, there will be a need to re-examine leadership development. Currently businesses have several options for leadership development.

Three major strategies leadership development may be deployed:

Developing individual leaders

Leadership training has traditionally been focused on training individuals already in leadership positions. It has been about making the leaders a company has even better. This has involved sharpening their skills, training them in those ones that they do not have and skilling them to be industry certified. 

Group leadership development

This strategy focuses on a group of leaders. They are all taken through a course or training with the end result being that they will take the knowledge they have learnt and apply it to their work. 

Succession planning 

Succession planning involves identifying an individual or individuals and training them to take over a specific role. This long term training may involve coaching, training in different departments of the organisation and mentorship.

Numerous factors are going to affect the future of leadership development, key of which is the changes in the global workforce. It is imperative to discuss these two concurrently. 

Changes in the workforce that will affect the future of leadership development

Different generations in leadership positions

The changing composition of generations in top leadership positions will impact the initiatives in leadership development.

Baby boomers, millennials and Gen Z will be found in leadership positions, sometimes in the same organisation. Those in charge of talent will have to take this unique mix into account and develop programs that accommodate everyone. 

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More diversity in leadership

The diversity is not only being seen in generational composition. It is also in backgrounds, nationalities, skills and experiences. Companies want to to have decision makers who reflect the workforce and their diverse customers.

More companies have made conscious efforts to recruit diversely. The benefits of having a mix of voices include; greater innovation, products and services that are inclusive and better problem solving. 

Flexibility as a cornerstone 

Trends show that workers value flexibility more than they do salary. The future of leadership development will have to take into account new models of working.

Leaders will have to be equipped to manage employees they do not physically interact with every day. Management too will need to consider that the need for flexibility is expressed by their leaders as well. 

What the future of leadership development looks like 

Democratising leadership 

When training leaders, it is customary to focus on the board, the C-Suite or those at the top levels of a company. This leaves out the managers who are at the lower levels. Furthermore, companies reserve leadership roles, and those who qualify for that training, for employees who have been with the company for years or who have achieved success in executing their roles. 

“Democratising leadership invites companies to not just train team leaders and managers at all levels but to look out for talent at all levels and skill them for future leadership.” notes Kevin Wabiszewski, Founder of Marine Approved.

This creates a cohort of individuals capable of taking bold steps that can shore up a company’s future as opposed to leaving that task up to only a handful of individuals. 

A few ways to train future leaders include;

  • Rotating team managers and giving every member of a team a chance to lead. 
  • Offering group coaching
  • Offering more shadowing and mentoring opportunities 

Tying leadership training to employee engagement 

The future of leadership development will be very closely tied to employee engagement. According to research, employees’ engagement is strongly affected by their managers and leaders.

“High employee engagement is necessary for better productivity, efficiency and profitability. This means that training leaders for technical skills will not be enough, they will need to receive adequate people management training,” says Craig Anderson, Founder of Express Dentist.

Effective leaders listen to their people, give them challenging tasks, train them and trust them with responsibility. They allow them to fail and to learn from their mistakes. These behaviours can drive employee engagement and can be taught to those responsible for leading people. 

Research shows that there is a skills transfer gap in some leadership development exercises. Those trained do not put into practice what they have learned.

Worse still, what is prioritised in leadership training is different from what is measured in employee engagement surveys. The future of leadership development may see a closer alignment of the two. 

Future of leadership development

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A deeper need for transparency and accountability

With the interconnectedness of our world and the speed with which information travels and will continue to travel in the future, there will be a greater need for accountability in all spheres of a company’s operations. The future of leadership development will see training that takes this into account.  

The leaders of tomorrow need to know how to create and manage systems that have accountability inbuilt. A lack of accountability can do more than just harm a company’s reputation. It can lead to massive financial losses. More and more accountability will be expected by all of a company’s stakeholders; from employees and staff to customers and regulators.

However, accountability shall not only be used as a preventative measure. “A culture of accountability leads to honest feedback, open communication, and a greater appreciation of staff.” says Meyr Aviv, Founder & CEO of iMoving.

In the latter case, employees who do the right thing are appreciated and that leads to a boost in employee morale. 

An even greater focus on technology 

The future of leadership development shows an even greater reliance on technology. Executive coach chatbots are already playing a role in delivering information to leaders in training. They provide timely information from any platform. 

AI will be able to provide further support in the form of personalised content for leaders. The content could be tied to their objectives, their competencies and their fields. And when it comes to measuring the efficacy of future leadership development trainings, technology will be able to deliver more information in the form of accurate metrics that will guide management in evaluating and on next steps. 

In Summary 

Companies are always going to need leadership development, it is how managerial capacities are developed. It leads to better change management and results in improved productivity. 

The future of leadership development will involve programs that adapt to the continuous changes taking place in the business world, the changing needs of employees and those of their leaders. 

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.