What should your leadership development strategy focus on in 2021

By Amanda Fleising - 2021 | 03 | 10

An organization without a leadership development strategy is like a rudderless ship, moving fast, but without direction. According to Training Industry, $169.4B US dollars was spent throughout North America to ensure that company leaders stay in peak performance. Unfortunately, big budgets alone don’t necessarily translate into leadership success. In the current corporate climate, where businesses are pivoting at a record pace, leadership development strategies could also benefit from a shift. Read on for 5 tips on how to pivot your program and create a real and lasting impact on your leaders in 2021 and beyond.

One size does not fit all

Just because a leadership development strategy or program has worked for similar companies or organizations, doesn’t mean the same magic will happen for your leaders.

“Rather than offering Leadership 101, identify the skills gaps that are going to give organizations the most bang for their buck,” says Darlene DeRosa, managing partner at OnPoint Consulting LLC, based in New York City, in an SHRM article about how to measure the ROI of leadership development.

Finding new opportunities, while staying true to what your organization wants to achieve, is the key to continued success.

Conduct interviews not only with your organization’s leaders and executives but also with industry experts, consultants and academics. Translate new insights into skills and competencies that leaders need to develop to achieve goals and mitigate risks.

As new goals and challenges arise, speak to your ‘think tank’ again and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Nurture a culture connection

“Leaders have a responsibility to demonstrate the beliefs of the company and reinforce behaviors that reflect those values” writes William Craig, founder and president of WebFX. “You can’t delegate creating the culture your employees experience.”

When leaders are not aligned with their organization’s values and mission, it can be felt by the entire workforce. A successful leadership development strategy should identify and nurture future leaders who naturally embody the behaviors and values of your organization. So how is this done? Here are the 3 steps to guide you:

  1. Make sure organizational culture, values and mission are clearly defined and shared across employees
  2. Ensure that your program identifies potential leaders for whom these behaviors and values come naturally
  3. Create opportunities where leaders can showcase their connection to your corporate culture (personal projects, educational opportunities, social activities)

Give your plan structure

Successful leadership development doesn’t happen overnight. One of the common mistakes organizations make is to create sporadic and inconsistent development opportunities.

Like any other business strategy, your leadership development strategy should include tools that track the progress of current or potential leaders towards development goals.

Here is an example, cited in Forbes magazine, of how a dashboard could be your tool of choice:

“Consider The Global Good Fund, a leadership development non-profit that focuses on social entrepreneurs under 40. Once accepted into the program, the entrepreneurs or “fellows,” as they’re referred to, take a 360-degree assessment to identify their strengths and weaknesses. They’re then paired with an executive coach to create a personal leadership development plan. Over the next 12 months, they execute that plan with the help of an established business leader as their mentor. An online dashboard keeps track of the progress, and everyone, three, five and 10 years after the program, fellows retake the assessment.”

Each journey is unique

Research suggests that self-awareness leads to more effective leaders with more-satisfied employees and more-profitable companies. That being said, are you certain that your leaders know and understand their own strengths, weaknesses, values, etc.?

Consider adding the following to your leadership development strategy:

  • A reliable, highly valid psychometric assessment. This will give leaders a language to understand their natural strengths, potential blind spots, emotional triggers, values…
  • The assessment should be complemented with qualitative feedback from a coach as well as from a peer

Self-awareness in a leadership development strategy should promote an ongoing process where leaders learn, evolve, adapt. Assessment is one tool, so is meditation, journaling, or executive coaching. Whatever solution you choose for your leaders, it must be personalized to the leaders’ goals, personality and needs.

Always be measuring

How will you know if your leadership development strategy is a success without a reliable measurement tool? As in other parts of your business, when it comes to ROI your motto should be: Always be measuring.

Dori Meinerts, in an SHRM article about how to measure the ROI of leadership development,writes “Having the data ready when the Chief Financial Officer asks you to prove the program’s worth may help you avoid cuts or bolster your request for an increase in funding. It will also build your reputation as a strategic thinker who is looking out for the long-range health of the business. Even more important, conducting an analysis will enable you to identify where improvement is needed so the initiative can be more effective next time”

Whether you are pivoting an existing leadership development program or building a new one, the key takeaways are to acknowledge the unique qualities, values and vision of your leaders and create ways to measure how they evolve and impact your company on an ongoing basis.

Written by
Amanda Fleising