I recently read an article by George Bradt about the Academy Award winning movie Whiplash, where, JK Simmons plays a music instructor who crushes his students’ confidence by demanding impossible musical perfection while opposing one student against the other. Brandt directs the reader to correlate Simmons’ teaching with pushing an employee beyond the bounds of reason to develop their leadership skills. The “best” performers respond to the challenge, while the others “go away.” I found his analysis interesting, but at the same time a bit unsettling.
Brandt goes on to identify a flaw in this argument and clarifies that, rather than be motivated by others to achieve their potential – one can be inspired towards achievement with the help of an enlightened leader who is able to leverage his or her strengths and remove barriers that stand in the way of success.
This article got me thinking about how companies are identifying and developing their future leaders to inspire employees. Unfortunately, due to many reasons, I find leadership development is not always at a priority for organizations.
With so many resources, options and metaphors at our fingertips it’s no wonder the question of how and when to transform managers into leaders leaves many organizational and HR executives with a hallow pit in their stomach. In addition, current employee leadership development expectations have changed and can be confusing to sort out. In some cases, leadership training initiatives or programs are outdated and/or have never existed, and the thought of updating them or implementing can be overwhelming.
Regardless of your physiological response to the question, teaching your future leaders “how to lead and inspire” is not a choice – it’s a competitive business requirement that will allow you to attract and retain top talent and maintain employee commitment, interest and engagement.
Recent studies on Millennials in the workplace conducted by Virtuali explored, among other things, their leadership values as well as the quality and type of leadership training they received from employers. The Viruali reports found that Millennials (who make up the largest generation in the workforce) believe employee development, including leadership development programs, is an essential element in their careers. Explored further, when asked to identify critical development areas, Millennials responded that training should be adaptive and incorporate skills development in relationship management, networking and development.
Interestingly, the Virtuali report found 64 percent of current Millennial leaders felt unprepared when assuming their leadership role. Yes – they are already in leadership positions! In fact, according to a survey conducted by Deloitte, 50 percent of Millennials already occupy leadership positions. Meanwhile, they continue to report lack of experiences (something they greatly value) makes it challenging to manage difficult people and resolve conflict. This knowledge alone should inspire an organization to develop a leadership strategy.
So, what steps can you take to begin to distinguish or overhaul your organizational leadership development strategy? Below are a few considerations:
- Identify current AND potential leaders that can benefit from leadership development
- Survey your emerging leadership group and current senior leadership team to determine and align how your organization defines success
- Identify essential competencies your emerging leaders should posses in order to guide the future of your organizations
- Audit your current organizational learning programs
- Invest in an emerging leadership training program and begin to develop essential leadership skills and knowledge
- Ensure that your emerging leadership program aligns with your organizational expectations, relevant workplace trends/issues and incorporates experiential learning opportunities
- Provide on-going development coaching and/or mentorship opportunities
Organizations taking the lead in developing their current and future leaders ensure business longevity. They look through the eyes of current and future leaders to explore the leadership gaps and strengths of their workforce and improve and reinforce them along side business strategies and goals. Pairing dynamic, relevant and intentional leadership strategies with business initiatives will transform your organizational destiny!