The Future of Leadership Development

A colleague from another business school recommended the book, The Future of Leadership Development, Corporate Needs and the Role of Business Schools, edited by IESE Business School Dean Jordi Canals. She said it helped set the direction for her executive development program and really got her thinking about our profession.

All of the content is written by business school professors and deans and much of it deals with MBA programs, so my practitioner readers may find it….well, academic. That’s corporate code word for deadly boring and irrelevant.

However, it was interesting enough for me to wade through it and jot down a few nuggets that I thought were worth sharing.

BTW, I’m also halfway through Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the future these days. This one actually creeps me out. It makes “The Matrix” and “The Terminator” look rosily optimistic.

Anyway, here are 10 current and potential trends for leadership development that shouldn’t creep anyone out too much, from the book and with my own embellishment:

1. The use of coaching in leadership development programs and classes.
There are pros and cons to both group and individual leadership development. Groups facilitate networking and shared learning, and are efficient, but may miss the mark for some. Individual coaching is “all about you”, but is expensive. Why not combine them both, like a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup? I’m seeing more university based executive development programs incorporate both individual and small group coaching into their design (CCL’s been doing it forever). Coaching is even starting to work its way into some MBA programs, which is good news for the coaching industry.
The challenge for business schools will be that most of their faculty don’t have coaching expertise and credentials, so when it’s outsourced, it’s often not fully integrated into the program.

2. Senior leadership development.
Lots of people are planning to work beyond the traditional retirement age, and many of them are looking to make a career change (moving into a not-for-profit, etc…). There are plenty of “Youth” leadership development programs – why not a transition program for seniors? Maybe you could get 20% off the registration cost with your AARP membership.

3. Building Block leadership development programs.
This would be kind of an umbrella concept which would include senior programs. The idea is that leadership development needs are very different depending on your age and where you are in your career. Instead of getting an MBA in your 20s and then that’s it, why not break it up into phases and make it a lifelong educational experience? While this one’s a bit self-serving for the business schools, the concept of life cycle leadership development is intriguing.

4. Social responsibility.
Some say the organization of the future will be more socially responsibility – that profits will not even be the primary mission of an organization. This new business model will require a different model of leadership development – one that pays more attention to ethics, the environment, how decisions impact the community and society, and human rights.

5. Global leadership development.
While not really a trend – globalization has been going on for decades – the world continues to get smaller. Global leadership development isn’t just for the big multinationals anymore, and we’ll continue to look for innovative ways to develop a global mindset.

6.Virtual reality.
Second Life, simulations, avatars, virtual reality, gaming, and artificial intelligence all have the potential to change the way we develop leaders. These technologies have the potential to develop higher level competencies, like critical thinking and emotional intelligence, in a safe, accelerated, and realistic environment. Need to prepare for an upcoming performance review? There’s an app for that!

7. Liberal Arts and the “soft stuff”.
Business schools have been slow to catch on to the importance of the “soft stuff”, while instead continuing to teach their MBAs analytical and quantitative skills. Some are even starting to question the value of a traditional MBA. In response, will business degrees and leadership development programs begin to integrate more “liberal arts” into their programs? In browsing some of the program descriptions for executive development programs, it appears the humanities, arts, and social sciences are beginning to infiltrate some of the more innovative programs.

8. “The Apprentice” model for leadership development.
No, not the Donald Trump reality show. The idea is to develop leaders like we develop other skills trades – though hands-on doing vs. classroom learning, experiential learning, shadowing, mentoring, and certification. Why not? We do it with doctors, lawyers, electricians, and engineers – why not for the profession of management?

9. Those that teach have been there and done it.
In the professions mentioned above (doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc…), the teachers usually, if not always, have extensive work experience. Why shouldn’t we demand the same from our leadership professors, instructors, and coaches? This could be a great way to tap into the knowledge and experience of “senior” executives that are looking to transition into teaching, instead of relying so heavily on professional instructors.

10. Woman’s leadership development.
Instead of force fitting woman into a male model of problem solving, decision making, and leadership, progressive organizations are starting to recognize that there is tremendous value in cultivating both male and female ways of leading. One is not better than the other, but having an equal balance of both will give you a competitive advantage.

What do you think? What’s the future hold for leadership development?