As the workforce shifts and technology influences how, where, and how fast we work, the leader’s role is undergoing a transformation as well. Gone are the days when the command-and-control type leadership style is the expectation or the norm. Business today requires a leadership style that can cut right through to the heart of what drives business forward — people. That leadership style should be flexible; it doesn’t need to know all the answers, but it should recognize that better answers come by seeking other’s opinions and by promoting collaboration.
Here are four tips that can help you develop great leaders at all levels of your organization:
- Set clear expectations for behaviors and activities. The State of Leadership Development 2015: The Time to Act is Now, a report from the Brandon Hall Group, suggests the requirement for great leadership is important, but the terms of what it means to be a leader are not always clearly defined. Only 8 percent of the organizations surveyed took the time to actually define the leadership requirements needed to help the business achieve its goals. Those numbers are likely not much different today. Defining expectations for leaders based on what’s important for the business and for the individuals who work it helps to create alignment and consistency. Leaders need to be able to support the company’s vision and the people responsible for seeing it come true.
- Provide continuous learning to help leaders succeed. Give leaders the best shot at success by providing learning and development on the leadership requirements that have been identified as important to the business. Understand that the landscape as well as leadership requirements are shifting, and support that change by addressing those shifting requirements with just-in-time learning opportunities. There’s a lot of potential for improvement in this area.
According to the same research from the Brandon Hall Group, only 43 percent of organizations reported little or no effective leadership development for first-time leaders and supervisors. The ability to make good business decisions, coach employees, deal with employee performance and development on an ongoing basis, and the ability to give and receive feedback, are all leadership skills that can be learned; reinforce these skills with experienced leaders on a regular basis; and introduce them early to new leaders with appropriate development thereafter.
- Provide technology-based resources and tools. We’re all well aware of how technology has changed — and will continue to change — how we work. It also impacts how leaders lead. The key is to harness the power of technology to encourage and maintain high performance for employees and for the business.
Leaders need to maintain a pulse on their teams. Technology can provide great depth and insight on employee performance; and it’s at the point now where sentiment and well-being can be measured. This helps inform coaching and feedback, development plans, compensation and performance management.
- Don’t forget to develop emotional intelligence. Leadership development tends to focus on technical/job-related skills. Increasing demands and changing expectations imply a more urgent need for leaders to have and develop their emotional intelligence, or EQ. But unlike IQ, EQ can be evolved and sharpened over time, and arguably, it’s EQ that helps build those connections employees are looking for, not IQ.
Great leadership boils down to understanding and connecting with people, and everyone is unique. Leaders must be properly trained and equipped with the right tools to be successful in their roles. Whether leaders are experienced or brand new to the position, the same philosophy and practices apply, especially as the concept of the future of work matures.
Leaders have to be comfortable with data, analytics and technology, they have to be adaptable, and they have to be willing to actively build future leaders who embody a company’s values. They must serve as examples for the rest of the staff by living those values every day. That’s the people edge required for sustainable business success.
Dominique Jones is chief people officer at Halogen Software. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.
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