For the longest time, leadership has been touted as an individual-level skill. Such presumptions, however, have not served many organisations well. 

Cultivating organisation-wide leadership is an irrefutable source of competitive advantage in today’s dynamic, fast-paced business landscape.  

Leadership by definition is a concept that is subject to individual interpretation as everyone’s description differs. For example, some describe leadership as an influencing process by which specific people inspire others to work towards a shared goal. 

Regardless of the disparate industry interpretations, leadership mainly revolves around collaborative guidance, influence, and authority. It seeks to motivate positive outcomes from others when undertaking a task. 

Effective leadership encapsulates: 

  • Character (enthusiasm and integrity)
  • Thoughtful analysis (fortitude and perceived judgment)
  • Accomplishment (mental strength and team building) 
  • Communication (interaction, collaboration, inspiration, and service of others).

What is a leadership development program?

Leadership development (LD) involves a series of activities that aim to extend the collective capacity of team members to effectively engage in leadership roles and processes. 

That being said, effective leadership development programs bridge the gap between employees and senior management to influence collaboration within an organisation. 

Fundamentally, through these programs, organisations can help staff to develop to better comprehend their own leadership strengths and weaknesses.

Traditionally, leadership development programs were only pursued by high-net-worth companies. However, the tide has shifted, and currently, more small- and medium-scale businesses are internally adopting these programs. 

Furthermore, they were also limited to high-potential employees to prepare them for senior positions. Today, more business leaders are now realising the value of leadership development across the spectrum of their organisations. 

Standard leadership development programs take different forms, for example:

  • Corporate leadership development programs
  • Executive leadership development programs
  • Middle management leadership development programs
  • Global leadership development programs
  • Future leader development programs
  • Strategic leadership development programs

Why is leadership development important?

leadership development
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  • Boosting the bottom line: Business entities continuously seek to boost their bottom line. And one practical way to do this is via trainings that prepare employees to face dynamic business challenges and better understand high-level strategy. 

Furthermore, leadership development provides employees opportunities to grow and gives them a sense of job security since they feel invested in it.

  • Talent attraction and retention: Organisations having well structured LD programs  are more appealing to new recruits seeking employment.
    Companies that include these programs typically register improved retention rates. This is because many employees tend to leave their jobs when they feel unmotivated or stagnant. This is typically caused by knowledge redundancy and a lack of opportunities to apply any new knowledge.
  • Easier navigation of change: Businesses expecting seismic shifts within their industries likely need leadership development. Change always comes with mixed reactions and can help oil the wheels in the cog as employees take on new tasks and roles to adapt to change.
    Since change is part and parcel of life, strong leadership can help in the navigation of a new business landscape while maintaining authority, respect, and high morale within a team.
  • Improve strategy execution: Without strong leadership, all strategies and master plans can be rendered ineffective. Leadership development programs can help employees transform-set goals into affirmative action.
    A well-designed leadership development program can foster broader connections throughout an organisation, mobilising workers to achieve stellar results.

Leadership development skills

LD skills include, but are not limited to: 

  • Vision: This skill involves setting clear goals that teammates are motivated to accomplish, while also increasing productiveness in areas that most need improvement. 
  • Integrity: While not technically a skill, but more of a leadership quality, integrity cuts across values, ethics, character, and courage. This is ideally a skill that makes it easier for others to follow your lead and have trust in your decision-making, mainly when the going gets tough.
  • Team Building and Collaboration: This skill underpins most high-performance teams that work towards a common mission or goal.
  • Conflict Resolution: Disagreements and conflicts are inevitable in any functional environment. However, good leaders focus on solving differences without offending egos. They essentially provide alternative dispute resolution mechanisms while remaining hard on issues, but soft on people.

Types of leadership styles

Leadership styles widely vary, but all have the same objective: affirmative action and profitable outcomes. Leadership styles can vary based on different situations, environments, or the function of the leader. For example:

  • Laissez-faire
  • Charismatic
  • Strategic
  • Democratic
  • Coaching
  • Visionary
  • Team-focused
  • Transformational
  • Facilitative
  • Cross-cultural
  • Autocratic
  • Transactional

Leadership development goals

As we alluded to earlier, effective leadership programs seek to train employees to take ownership of their jobs and assigned tasks. As a result, it gets the best affirmative action and outcomes for an organisation while producing great leaders.

This creates an environment where any member of an organisation demonstrates leadership qualities, even with little official authority but with the responsibility to get their job done. 

Here are some primary leadership development goals that paint a better picture:

  • Soft skills development: LD helps instill soft skills like negotiation capabilities, even the ability to successfully influence and motivate others. It conveys that effective leadership goes beyond responsibility and accountability. That said, the actions of one individual can reflect directly on them and shine a spotlight on their own capabilities.
  • Building of dynamic teams: A good organisation encompasses diversity but should be inclusive of comprising of unique individuals. Strong leadership helps to align management where the best employees for a job are identified to create a successful, well-rounded team, without bias.
  • Improve organisational communication: Efficient leadership focuses on improving communication clarity within organisations so there is no room for misinterpretation. This helps employees to learn how to maintain an acceptable balance between respect and approachability.
    This is often exceedingly challenging to attain without a concerted effort to develop communication skills.
    It creates mechanisms to produce a thought that clearly transmits messages from leadership via constructive feedback that focuses on improvement, not fault.
  • Improving organisational efficiency: Strong leaders help their organisations to achieve efficient operations by helping to streamline individual responsibilities, business operations, and goals.  
  • Showing appreciation, recognition, and empathy: The idea with LD programs is to develop a culture of appreciation and empathy, that is often missing in most businesses.
    G
    ood leaders recognise that an organisation’s biggest asset is its employees. Consequently, appreciated team members tend to boost productivity and reduce turnover rates.

Leadership development process

Effective leadership development emphasises the skills and experiences that will be relevant to an own organisation in the near future. 

In an ever-evolving and competitive business landscape, the dynamic challenges of today will not be the same as those of tomorrow. 

The main principle of the leadership development process is to produce high-caliber leaders who can seamlessly slot into different organisation positions. 

Effective LD processes thus increase employee morale and retention, build better teams, improve productivity, and promote better decision-making. They equip future leaders to take up a management style that is conducive to a productive and positive working atmosphere.

In summary, a good leadership development process underpins an effective leadership development program, and thus:

  • Understands the goals an organisation seeks to accomplish with its leadership program.
  • Matches the company and its employees’ learning styles, for example, classroom interaction, or an online leadership course.
  • Assesses and evaluates the exact leadership skills an organisation needs. 
  • Flexibly adjusts or matches an organisation’s overall style and philosophy.
  • Has a structure that ensures that all core leadership topics are covered to meet the objectives of the leadership development program.
Leadership development
Photo by Anna Tarazevich

The use of virtual reality for leadership development

Virtual reality as a cutting-edge technological paradigm offers an intuitive and immersive way to deliver leadership development programs. 

For example, with VR capabilities, leaders can practise their soft skills, and even simulate how to navigate tough and emotional conversations in a safe, immersive space.

Powered by a VR headset, this simulated training can be used to improve communication, collaboration, innovation, and decision-making while accelerating self-awareness and learning for leaders.

Compared to traditional leadership development programs are:

  • 4 times faster than classroom training.
  • 275 times faster to apply skills after training.
  • 3.75 times more emotionally connected than classroom learners.
  • 4 times more focused than e-learning.

Virtual reality leadership development programs provide a psychologically and physically safe environment to evaluate and improve team members’ leadership characteristics.

Check out Virtual Reality-Based Leadership Development Programs from Growth Academy Asia. 

Concluding remarks: Why should organisations invest in leadership development?

Today’s highly competitive corporate environment demands high levels of creativity, flexibility, adaptability, and innovation to realise competitive advantages. 

In response to today’s rapidly changing business environment, organisations should seek to cultivate great future leaders on an ongoing basis. 

An effective and holistic leadership development program seeks to develop radical, ethical, and authentic leaders (REAL) who lead in a manner that fosters collaboration, engagement, and long-term commitment. 

This, in turn, results in higher organisational performance through discretionary effort. It also instils emotional intelligence, strong work cultures, and value systems behind every decision made in the company. 

In conclusion, ensure to always remember these few tips that underpin any effective leadership development program:

  1. A good leadership development program helps participants to step into self-belief and feel appreciated that their contributions matter, and that they can effectively lead if they choose to do so.
  2. A good leadership development program can be easily customised to suit participants’ different environments.
  3. An effective leadership development program anchors all leadership anxieties that the participants experience.
  4. An excellent leadership development plan is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART).