Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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?


Ashok Vaishnav said...

The article does point to quite a few pertinent issues.
From my personal perspective – in so far as it concerns someone who has put in 38+ years, in India, and would like to pass on the advantage of hindsight view to the current drivers , I would certainly keenly focus on #2 , #4, #7 and #9.
By creating a dynamic platform where [very] senior (not in the regular service) members can interact with the young, current, managers on the issues which have had surfaced in the past also would certainly go a long way in preventing the inventions of wheels. Here we are not talking of methodology of solving the problem on hand, because there is no reason to believe that current team is any way less competent in the problem solving skills. The point is to maintain a bridge where transfer of knowledge of what happens with the unintended effects, unanticipated issues as well as transfer of the non-documented, soft, alternative interpretations and discussions. This will provide an additional cushion of time to the retired seniors as well as the current management towards the transition as an on-going mechanism.
These seniors can also spare that much needed ‘extra’ time for and effective dialogues with the stakeholders on the other side of the table of the SCR initiatives. The SCR initiatives need a far more careful ‘listening’ while planning , implementing as well as during post-implementation feedbacks. The seniors can bring in a much needed inherent impartiality to the whole exercise as well.
This in way means that managers who are on the jobs currently are prone to seeing only bric-and-mortar view of a house, which does not make a home. But, it is natural for these individuals’- whose career performance- and that of their organizations’ strategic and tactical perspective being so tilted towards numbers – talk of numbers first.
There is probably no doubt that leadership can be taught, but there is much beyond what is enshrined in the excellent text books and well-documented case studies. It would certainly be impossible to capture all experiences into the text books of a structured study program.

Jae said...

Thanks. We might not appreciate it immediately, but leadership is so very important.

GBE said...

Thanks for the excellent post. Your post got me thinking not only of the future, but about the past as well. Over the past several decades (since the 1970's from my personal research) the number one reason why people leave jobs is because of their boss/leader/manager. Leadership development has been around even longer. So after all these many years of leadership development, why is it that employees continue to leave companies because of their “bad” bosses?

Perhaps leadership development programs focus on the wrong things; perhaps it’s due to poor training programs and training transfer; perhaps it is a poor cultural environment; perhaps there is a lack of personal responsibility and accountability; perhaps it is a combination of all these and other unrealized forces. I doubt that another “program” in any organization that had such a dismal ROI as leadership development would be allowed to continue, yet it does. Why?

Thank you for the opportunity to share.

Tim G said...

Thanks for sharing, interesting stuff!

Here's a trend I'm hoping catches on:

I've come to believe (and am trying to push the idea in my own organization) that leadership development should be more like a workout regimen, and less like a weekend in Vegas.

What I mean is, many leadership development programs occur over a relatively short time, and the participants are given way more than they can realistically absorb, meaning that much of what happens in "Vegas" (aka the program) stays in "Vegas."

Instead, I'd like to see more leadership development programs that are more like a health/fitness program - small, incremental, sustainable improvements over over time, and with a clear end goal in mind.

(BTW, I don't think "academic" is code for boring and irrelevant - many the important business concepts originate there - we just business thinkers who can connect the dots between academic concepts and practical application!)

Susan Williams said...

I too am very interested in item #2 - tapping the experience of senior talented people is potentially a new wave that will hit. Marc Freedman has written a few books in this area: The Big Shift basically identifies the "third age" ...and explains why the old stages no longer apply - retirement being one. I think there will be a huge opportunity in this area to create programs external and internal to get the ball rolling (there probably already are!)

Dan McCarthy said...

Ashok -
Sounds like a plan for senior leader development - thanks!

Jae -

Thanks. You are not the first person to ask that questions....having spent my career in leadership development, I'd be too biased and close to the issue to answer it.

Tim -
Thanks - I like your thinking - at least it's a different approach.
And thanks for sticking up for academia. I agree, great leaders are able to connect the dots and figure out how to apply the therory. Others will whine becuase they have not been spoon fed.

Unknown -
Thanks - I'll bet there are!

Ben Simonton said...

The leadership industry has a very poor record of success as reported here http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-books-20120429,0,5474915.story

In my 34 years of managing people, I spent huge amounts of time trying to become a better leader of my people, as few as 22 and as many as 1300. In my first 12 years I mainly tried to learn from books on leadership and management and also from those on religion, history, psychology, and the brain. Not much help!

After those 12 years, I was challenged to start truly listening to my people rather than spend most of my time figuring out my next order. I found that they had many complaints, suggestions and questions. The more I responded reasonably to those the better they performed, actually in lockstep.

Eventually, they taught me exactly how they react to managerial actions and inactions, my leadership. When I learned how to convert them from being followers (they waste huge amounts of brainpower on following) to using their own value standards in how to perform their work thus unleashing huge amounts of creativity, innovation, and productivity, I found that people are at least four times more capable than thought humanly possible.

From those experiences, literally a 24/7 experimental laboratory, I authored the book "Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed". These people were fully engaged and literally loved to come to work.

Best regards, Ben Simonton

Dan McCarthy said...

Thanks for your comment.
I was wondering where you were going with the "all those leadership books didn't help me" story. Then it turned out to be a plug for your own book. Hmm.....