Many research organizations recently released a new research study that demonstrates a surprising gap between what’s being said and what’s being done by business executives – a problem that derives mostly from the lack of focus in leadership development. Still, during the last few years, leadership development programs have received their fair share of criticism despite the fact that the last decade saw considerable investment made in executive training. A poll conducted by researchers from Harvard University showed that 70% of Americans consider leadership crisis a significant factor in the national economic decline. This is a very puzzling situation – on the one hand, we see a rising demand for leadership skills, on the other, many leadership development programs fail to deliver their promised results. What will be the future of leadership?
Monica Wells wrote; leadership is bound to change radically in the near future. With many leaders feeling unprepared for the economy around them, leadership development programs should flourish and strive to provide training aimed at developing skills for addressing problems arising from economy globalization and current leadership gaps.
We’ll surely see more management policies fostering sustainability and witness a transition from the autocratic, control-and-command management style to its democratic variety. When it comes to leadership of the future, we’ll see its human face employed as a growing factor in business success by many global brands. Let us take a look at the following:
Generational Difference Management
According to Isabel Williams, one of the most important developments of the global leadership scene is the rise of Millennials, who will now obtain more leadership positions with high-level responsibilities. Top Companies for Leaders report points out that in the near future, organizations will need to learn how to mitigate the generational differences, which will arise once Millennials get hold of executive jobs, and how to develop new strategies to benefit from the strengths of this generation.
Millennials are generally described as team-players and high achievers. They’re independent, but like to follow rules – they’re confident, but trust authority. They are the only generation that has grown up completely immersed in technology, so it’s only natural that their leadership style will be completely different than the one endorsed by Generation Y.
This trend is already visible in one of the best practices around – at Johnson&Johnson, who created an affinity group called Millennials to provide leadership development opportunities to this generation and new exposure designed to help in the overall development of all employees.
Flexibility and agility
A research study from the Institute of Leadership and Management suggests that the single most important feature of future leaders will be flexibility. In order to succeed in the future, mangers will need to become more agile, responsive and develop an ability to adapt to different needs generated by changing workplaces. But that’s not the end of story. Those managers will also need to be open to cultural and technological changes that will impact the core of enterprise operations – their job will be to ensure that key management and leadership practices are adapted to the transforming context and carried out successfully.
To borrow the words of Leadership Circle, leadership and organizational flexibility, and agility are a key focus in organizations today, and with good reason. In the most recent 2010 IBM CEO study, which is based on the interviews of over 1,500 CEO’s worldwide, two primary themes emerged that had not appeared in previous studies.
The first theme was managing complexity and the second was developing the creative capacity in the organization to innovate in response to the shifting marketplace demands—in a world of escalating complexity. Leaders have been talking about the increasing rate of change for years, but escalating complexity is a new and emerging trend. Simply put, not only is the rate of change increasing but so is complexity.
Escalating complexity results from rapidly shifting marketplace dynamics in a global business environment of increasing uncertainty, ambiguity, volatility, and market disruption. The IBM CEO study stated that “Most CEO's seriously doubt their ability to cope with rapidly escalating complexity.” The ability to thrive in an increasingly volatile world depends on the second theme that emerged in the study. CEO’s worldwide are asking the question, “How do we develop the creative capacity in our leadership and throughout the organization to respond to rapidly changing marketplace demands and dynamics?” These emerging themes and trends place a premium on the very thing some of our customers ask about—flexibility, agility, and innovation.
Leaders need to design organizations so that they are flexible and agile in responding to constantly changing markets. Beyond creating new products and services, the organization’s capacity to reinvent itself demands an emphasis today on the kind of flexibility, agility, and innovation that will determine the organization’s success. The future (we are already in) requires leaders to not only be able to manage complexity but lead their teams and organizations through it. A future of escalating complexity requires leaders who can innovate on behalf of the organization, redesign the organization so that it is fit for its purpose in this new global landscape, and develop the operational agility to implement change and execute on strategy. The CEO study called this kind of leadership “creative leadership.”Tasked with more than innovation, these same leaders must develop flexible and agile organizational systems—systems that can adapt quickly to rapidly developing trends and changing market conditions. The agility of an organization is primarily a function of organizational design. Are the processes that translate your organization’s strategy into execution designed for rapid change? If not, then the organization lacks flexibility and agility.
Focus on Vertical Development
Vertical development, according to CCL’s Nick Petrie, takes a radically different approach. The goal of vertical development is not to add more skills or knowledge, but to develop the ‘mind’ of the leader.Most leadership development is focused on adding new tools and competencies, what might be called ‘horizontal development.’ However, ‘vertical development’ — developing, updating or changing a leader’s mindset and mental models — is equally important.Vertical development does not replace horizontal development. Both are equally important. In the past, however, too much attention has been paid to adding skills and methodologies, and not enough to changing the mindsets and perspectives of high-potential leaders. By focusing on both approaches, companies can develop leaders who have the wisdom to choose the right strategies (thanks to vertical development) as well as the skills and experience to implement them (thanks to horizontal development).
The Center for Creative Leadership report also mentioned a future trend, which is directly related to the future training programs – they are expected to be less about realizing a certain competency model and more about the vertical development. While competency-based models belong the domain of horizontal development, vertical development concentrates on the stages that people go through as they grow mentally according to Isabel.
What does it mean in practice? New training programs will allow leaders to think in a more complex way and develop a new mind-set that will in turn help to initiate new leadership styles. Those leadership styles will be more collaborative and participatory than before – they will all flourish thanks to the skills and knowledge acquired in revamped leadership development programs. Let us all learn to improve and take advantage of these future trends in leadership & management, at the end of the day the power is yours.