How to grow new-style leaders

Ann Edwards, practice manager at Executive Training SHL, looks for mentoring
and coaching schemes suitable for high performers in today’s international

The recent CEML report (July, Training Magazine) should act as a sobering
wake-up call for UK organisations. Already struggling in the aftermath of
recent economic and terrorist events, the report warns organisations’ troubles
are far from over if they fail to address the soft skills deficit at senior
management level currently damaging UK companies.

Organisations now have to re-evaluate the importance placed on effective
leadership and management in good times and in bad. Slowly, a shift is taking
place. As a result, the much admired pioneers and hard-nosed tycoons of the 90s
are stepping aside for a new breed of leaders – charismatic visionaries at the
helm of organisations, concentrating on values, ethics and communication.

In response, forward-thinking companies are refocusing their executive
education strategies and increasing their development budgets to include
coaching and mentoring. These are aimed at developing ‘home-grown’ talent and
retaining potential leaders in a time when CEOs are in post for an average of
just 18 months.

Short-term views

As the baby boomers reach retirement age, the challenge facing organisations
today is identifying potential leaders from a decreasing talent pool. They must
then foster them in keeping with future corporate goals and culture while
nurturing and developing the new balance of soft and hard skills needed,
including the way leaders relate to people, enthusiasm, thinking style and

Traditionally, organisations have adopted a short-term, ‘agenda-setting’
approach to the recruitment of leaders. This is epitomised by the tendency to
parachute in a replacement from outside an organisation when recruiting senior
people. However, the replacement is typically just that – someone with
identical values and leadership techniques, rather than a successor best suited
to the future goals and values of the organisation. This is the quick fix, the
expensive option. Why? Because the person best suited to the job is often
already there. You just haven’t identified them yet.

Transformational training

Developing the new generation of leaders begins very simply. You must
understand what your organisation needs, define what leadership means there and
establish what leadership skills and attributes are needed to drive the
organisation forward. This is the first step and will help you refine who your
next leader will be.

Today’s leaders still need to be traditional agenda setters, but they must
also be transformational leaders – managers who lead by example, who recognise
their core personality strengths and soft skills and are trained to use them in
their managerial capacity. By aligning soft skills and behaviours with
organisational goals in this way tomorrow’s inspirational, dynamic leaders are

With this in mind, the next step is identifying the existing talent pool.

This can be done most effectively through a comprehensive talent and
management development review using questionnaire-based methodologies and
leading-edge psychometrics and psychological assessment.

This process will help establish ‘best fits’ for roles and provide the
platform for change. Individuals must then carry the process forward by using
in-house coaching and mentoring programmes.

Support is then essential to ensure the success of the chosen leader. The role
of coach and mentor is vital at this point. Usually someone external, these
professionals provide essential, independent assistance and coach the change in
behaviour required.

In addition, a commitment to continue taking snapshots of the individual’s
progress is then needed. Traditionally, management development has been
regarded as a one-off event. However, today’s coaching and mentoring programmes
should be viewed as ongoing processes. Leaders, with the support of
organisations, need to continually ask: Where am I now? Has where I need to be
changed? If so, what do I need to do?

The sad fact is that today’s talented managers are tomorrow’s
under-performing managers, unless they adapt to ever-changing demands and adopt
new leadership approaches. However, the good news is that a more
cost-effective, homogeneous workforce is waiting just round the corner.

Just follow the leader.

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