In formalized leadership development, an emerging trend is to get them while they’re young.
A recent survey by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) found that 40 percent of global business leaders think formalized leadership development should start between ages 11 and 17. Some thought that wasn’t young enough, as 29 percent said it should start between ages 6 and 10. Just 4 percent said it should begin after age 21.
In all, 90 percent of the CCL survey’s respondents said formalized leadership development should be included as part of formal education in high school and college. This creates a conundrum for learning leaders, who are unlikely to have control over the development of their employees before they enter the company’s ranks.
What it does show, according to Joel Wright, an early leadership development director at CCL, is that learning leaders should make leadership development available to all entry-level workers (84 percent of respondents to the CCL survey said leadership development should be offered to all young employees, not just those on a leadership track).
“With the rate at which technology is changing, what you know today isn’t going to hold true to where you’re going with your career in the future,” Wright said.
And it doesn’t end with age. The skills that future leaders will need are also evolving at a rapid pace.
Mastery of technical skills — say, in finance, human resources or engineering — is not as important today in leadership development as it was 20 years ago, according to the CCL survey.
Survey participants were asked to rank the top skills needed for leadership development. Participants were also asked to rank skills they thought would be especially important 10 years from now. Both sets were compared to data CCL collected during a similar survey 20 years ago.
Ellen Van Velsor, a senior fellow at CCL, said technical skill is still considered important, but not as important as some of the newer leadership competencies included on this year’s survey.
The most important skill for today and the future is learning agility and adaptability, according to the survey, as 50 percent of participants cited it as not just critical for the current business environment but also for what they expect to be most vital in 10 years.
Just 9 percent of survey respondents rated learning agility as critical 20 years ago; 14 percent said the same of adaptability.
As for the most important leadership competencies for today’s young workers, self-motivation and discipline took the top spot, garnering 44 percent of the vote, while effective communication and learning agility came in with 40 percent and 29 percent of the vote, respectively.
Corporate leaders were more likely than others to cite self-motivation and communication as important. The survey also polled educators, government officials and leaders from nonprofit organizations.
Diversity and multicultural awareness is viewed as a critical leadership skill by just 2 percent of respondents. That number, however, rises to 22 percent when asked to rate diversity’s importance in 10 years.
The survey also asked business leaders what excites them most about the younger generation at work. Responses included their comfort and skill with technology, their creativity and openness, and their tolerance and high level of multicultural awareness and adaptability with pace of change.
Among the concerns, many reported them as having a sense of entitlement, lacking proper communication skills, being overconfident and lacking drive and self-motivation.
Van Velsor said many of these issues could be softened through an enhanced focus on broader cultural initiatives aimed to promote a strong leadership framework. “One of the ideas is around cross-generational mentoring,” she said.
“Leadership development should be for all,” Wright said. “And I think that will be a challenge for some people’s mindsets — especially for those thinking a leader should be in a position of authority.”
Frank Kalman is an associate editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine. He can be reached at fkalman@CLOmedia.com.
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