<p>Knowledge workers are stimulated by intellectual challenges, autonomy and innovative thinking opportunities. These workers view success not by a dollar sign, but by growth and development prospects. They are the lifeblood of any organization — and its most important investment.<br /><br />In some companies, however, leadership development for these star contributors is what happens when they are confronted with the realities of people management — something they are not automatically prepared for. As they are left to their own devices, the result is a crapshoot of success. This fragmented approach is not only ineffective, but also is inconsistent in quality, mismanages resources and lacks necessary senior-level support. <br /><br />One of the critical steps in moving from a fragmented approach to a successful leadership development program is to have a common understanding as to what constitutes leadership. Although the definition might seem straightforward, many people have different ideas of what leadership is and what is necessary at each level. It is critical that everyone be on the same page when deciding what being a leader means and also what a leader is at each stage of leadership. <br /><br />Consider Amway, an $8 billion marketing and manufacturing company. Amway developed a leadership model based on the book The Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel. The company likened each of the following areas of leadership to “turns,” analogous to the gates that downhill skiers must clear: managing others; managing mangers; leading functions; and leading the business. They then ascribed skills, time frames and values to each “turn.”<br /><br />1. <strong>Managing others:</strong><br />• Skills include planning, assigning work, coaching, hiring and firing and measuring the work of others.<br />• The time spent on this leadership capability is on an annual cycle.<br />• The associated value is helping others accept company values. <br /><br />2. <strong>Managing managers:</strong><br />• Skills include coaching managers, delegating, choosing first-line managers and allocating resources.<br />• Leaders looking to build this capability should spend time connecting annual plans to strategy and working across organizational boundaries.<br />• The values associated with this “turn” include helping others acquire management skills and facilitating the flow of information.<br /><br />3. <strong>Leading functions:</strong><br />• The needed skills here are communicating across departments, understanding and managing work outside of one’s own skill area and developing functional strategy.<br />• Development of this capability requires time spent on communicating with other functional managers, securing resources and participating in business team meetings.<br />• The values associated with this capability are embracing new and different work and functional leadership.<br /><br />4. <strong>Leading the business:</strong><br />• The skills associated with this capability are developing business strategy, strong business acumen, making trade-off decisions and integrating functions into the business plan.<br />• Leaders should be able to conceptualize from the present to three years in the future and spend time working with unfamiliar business functions.<br />• The values associated with this capability are having a profit perspective (should we do this?) vs. a functional perspective (can we do this?) and balancing short-term results with long-term business building. <br /><br />Once the definition is in place, a standard for cultivating leadership must be deployed. The ideal solution involves a holistic approach in which succession planning is tied not only to a leader’s specified chain of command, but to the organization’s overall strategy.<br /><br />Consider IBM. IBM regularly holds senior executive meetings aimed at facilitating successor development for leadership positions. Typical discussions focus on creating an inventory of successor development needs and continually assessing progress against these development objectives. Accountability is with the team, the supervisor and the potential successor. The outcome is to match successors to critical development experiences that are aligned to the organization’s strategic objectives. <br /><br />The common problem in times of economic dips is that employee development is put on the back burner. However, a slash to the budget does not give leadership the justification to forgo succession planning. Left unchecked, advancing a successful individual contributor to a leadership role without proper development will cause the organization pain in the long run. To avoid this, companies should have common vernacular, a culture of accountability and prudence in allocating resources for top-tier talent. </p>
- Listen: Upwork’s Zoe Harte makes the case for freelancers as core part of talent development strategy
- What should be the employer’s role in tackling student loan debt?
- Intellectual humility is a key skill for tomorrow’s leaders
- Student debt is an impediment to lifelong learning
- Standing still is no longer an option