Why Leadership Development Fails

Written by Toby Turner, Liz Peace CBE & Alan Froggatt

Seeing the changes that digital and other transformative forces are bringing to leadership development in real estate, Toby Turner sat down with the Holtby Turner’s Non-Executive Directors, Liz Peace CBE and Alan Froggatt, for a frank discussion about why leadership fails. As a result, they outlined the core questions that must be top of mind when crafting Leadership Programmes – such as when Holtby Turner Executive Search redesigned their client programme for first time leaders.

1. Consider & Prepare  –  Toby Turner

Before leadership programmes are developed, the following questions must be answered honestly by CEOs and HR teams, first in the boardroom and then division by division.

  1. Has your existing leadership development programme gathered feedback from staff about any barriers or blocks it contains?
  2. Is your company’s value system clearly reflected in the skills you require from leaders?
  3. Is the leadership team aligned on its strategic needs as an organisation?

If there is even one “no” from this list your leadership pipeline might be limited and under threat. A failure to execute on strategy and change is often not due to individual flaws, but managerial weakness hampered by out of date policies. Therefore, if there has been a significant organisational or managerial restructuring since your current programme was created, then do make sure your new programme will address these new demands.

2. Define Your Leadership Needs & Know Your Context  –  Alan Froggatt

The old ‘command and control’, is no longer sufficient today, so leaders need to listen and learn from those they are leading. This can also help you explore leadership gaps, especially if succession is an issue

in your senior management team. That means your development programmes must be worked on, and agreed by, your heads of HR, strategy, operations and change-management, as a team. This is vital so your leaders have an organisation ready to embrace these leadership changes.

Ask yourself plenty of questions and take plenty of time to get the answers right. Are you branching out with new models and service lines? Are you considering a merger? Are you seeking greater diversity and cultural inclusivity?

As you go through this process, stop to check if your executive team believes leaders should fit into a predefined “correct” box. Avoid being vague in your language around leadership values. “Go-getting” and “driven” are empty words no one can clearly measure, so use clear words that have a direct relevancy and value. Depending on your company’s context, these may be qualities like fair, mentoring, analytical and decisive. Be specific and list examples all understand and can agree upon. A key requirement today is for leaders to exhibit a very strange cocktail of self-confidence with a restless curiosity and an almost neurotic search for continual improvement, which signals the way forward to everyone in the team and empowers the front line in its relationship with customers. The only real way to find out if your future leader has what it takes is for them to practice in preferably two challenging roles in parts of the business mid-career, so that they develop that self-confidence without ever getting truly comfortable.

3. Get A Coach  –  Liz Peace CBE

Too many people who reach a senior position think that they have learned all they need. But even champion sportsmen need a coach. And it’s just the same for leaders in any organisation. Coaching is a very specific form of training, using an individual’s experiences to help bring about a change in behaviours. Everything that is an issue for someone personally is likely to come out in some form in the way they act professionally – we are, after all just human and imperfect – so identifying those faults, hang-ups and prejudices will allow an individual to control and make use of them. Coaching is not an overnight process and takes a good dose of humility. But what great CEOs have in common is that they lead by example, and no one can do that without first learning how to manage themselves.

4. Develop By Doing  –  Toby Turner

When creating a leadership development program, think about how you can place participants into situations that will require them to learn and grow. What collaborative opportunities will help your leaders develop, can they collaborate with colleagues in other departments on a special project? Other non-project related ways of learning often include mentoring and training via job rotation and shadowing. A common mistake with leadership development programs is only investing in top-performing employees. However, just as Sue Greenland of LandSec said in her article, just because someone has demonstrated excellent work in their current position it doesn’t mean they will grow into a leader for the business

5. Measure Success And Manage The Less Successful  –  Liz Peace CBE

Before formally implementing your leadership development programme, determine how you will measure your program’s success and impact. These may include metrics such as the number of participants who complete it successfully, the level of those you promote after they have gone through their programme. Perhaps it’s an increase in leadership responsibilities and whether those in the programmes feel they are actually developing into effective leaders. But it is also important to evaluate how individuals have changed and developed as a result of their leadership training. Further, those who don’t come out of the programme so well need to be sensitively managed as well. After all, not everyone on a fast stream development programme is going to be heading for the C-suite and an organisation needs good leaders at the middle management level as well as the top.

A Final Thought From Us All …

Do remember that no one school of thought is better than another when it comes to leadership and management thinking, so don’t follow hyped new thinking just because it’s new. Try to be flexible and open-minded, and think only about what’s right for your individual leaders and organisational need, not following talent management trends.

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