Top leadership development priorities for 2020

Top leadership development priorities for 2020

Filter tag: Leadership Capability

The world of business is changing and so too must our approach to leadership development over the next decade. Senior leaders have a twofold challenge: ensuring their own skillset is up-to-date and relevant and ensuring that the organisation’s future leaders are equipped with the skills and capabilities that will be required if it is to grow and prosper in the future.

Rialto Consultancy has been reviewing some of the key trends emerging which are being impacted and influenced by a raft of factors such as the next wave of digital transformation, changes in customer behaviour, changes in employee expectations as well as specific industry issues. It highlights how, more than ever, people and commercial strategies must be aligned if companies are to stimulate innovation, increase efficiencies as well as ensure they are sufficiently agile and adaptable to respond to further and ongoing changes.

Another war for talent is starting to rage while the lack of digital skills and the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on roles brings further challenges. Identifying and developing a deep pool of next-generation leaders is essential in order to compete. And to deliver effective leadership development programmes, whether by coaching or other team interventions, requires organisations to see the bigger picture and how future developments in the world of business and work will impact on their organisation and sector.

So as we move into the next decade, how can you ensure leadership development has maximum impact? Rialto has identified six key areas of focus.

 1 The upskilling/reskilling imperative

The pace and scale of change means leaders and their teams must be at the top of their game and ensure they have the knowledge and capabilities to manage it. But this will be the bare minimum requirement if UK firms are to tackle the biggest skills challenges they’ve ever faced.

Technologies like AI and machine learning are displacing, changing and creating jobs at all levels while a new premium will be put on soft skills to ensure the human-AI workforce works to optimum effect. Leaders must elevate their focus on the impact disruption is having on workforces and ensure the right learning programmes are in place. These must go beyond traditional development programmes. They must recognise the importance of brokering learning experiences as well as connecting employees to learning experiences across the organisation.

The speed of innovation and technological change means that everyone needs to be prepared to fail fast and learn fast

Rialto will be partnering with business leaders over the coming years to help them maintain the right balance of emerging, existing and legacy skills to help drive transformation and respond to disruption. We believe it is important for organisations to develop these skills in-house as competition will remain fierce for critical talent segments. 

2 Growth mindsets and continuous learning

It is no longer a case of how much you know but how you apply knowledge to make an impact. All leaders must adopt a growth mindset and champion the importance of continuous learning.

The speed of innovation and technological change means that everyone needs to be prepared to fail fast and learn fast. Ongoing development and a work-in-progress will become norms rather than exceptions. Developing curiosity will help leaders to be more open to learning and learning opportunities.

In our experience, the biggest roadblock to growth and innovation is a leader who is closed to learning and feedback. Such an attitude can stymie creativity across organisations. Innovation and creative thinking must be hard-wired into an organisation’s DNA. Leaders must also be able to identify who the game-changers are in the organisation and support them.

Organisations need to become more aware of what their human capital operating model looks like and ensure it doesn’t stand still because it isn’t just systems and processes that need to be continually updated. 

3 The art of managing change

The requirement for leaders to be agents of change and ensure their teams can effectively implement transformation programmes (digital or otherwise), will continue to be a priority throughout 2020 and beyond. According to the analyst Gartner, more than half (56 per cent) of HR leaders say organisational design and change management will be a top priority in 2020.

Rialto has observed that many leaders are ill-equipped to deal with such change while others simply aren’t prepared for the shorter timeframes in which it must be effected. They also lack clarity on how to ensure organisational design supports the faster and more agile work practices that are required in the current climate. Employee experience is also a key factor in successful change management and this is still being overlooked.

Employees will have even higher expectations of their leaders in the coming decade and will want to see accountability and transparency in their actions and behaviours

In our experience, many of these problems stem from change management not being accurately reflected/represented in leadership development programmes. The need for change will be ongoing in the next decade so organisations must identify what skills and capabilities will be needed for future transformation programmes and find ways to impart them. 

4 Inter-generational workforces and leadership teams

As workplaces become increasingly inter-generational, this needs to be reflected in leadership teams across the organisation. At one end of the spectrum, older members of the cohort that followed the Millennials, Gen Z, are being recruited on leadership training programmes. Meanwhile, it isn’t unusual to find members of the “Silent Generation” (who preceded the Baby Boomers), still in the workforce and making a valuable contribution into their 70s.

Each generation has entirely different expectations of and demands from the world of work and organisations must tap into these and their strengths and weaknesses. Rialto has frequently witnessed these differences at its leadership development programmes. For instance, with the focus of the programme on business growth, we found Millennial leaders offered great ideas, stepped forward to challenge the status quo and wanted their voices to be heard. However, others in the group found their approach to be disruptive at times, with differences in listening and communication styles cited as the main reason.

The key is making individuals from each generation feel valued and their contribution and strengths recognised. Moreover, the majority of organisations have an age-diverse customer bases so to serve them effectively it is important that this is reflected in leadership teams just as gender or ethnicity should be.

5 Authentic leaders who create space and time for meaningful conversations

Employees will have even higher expectations of their leaders in the coming decade and will want to see accountability and transparency in their actions and behaviours. In short, they want authentic leaders who they can trust and who set the standards bar high for others to follow.

The next decade will not only be about leaders building their own resilience and agility though but ensuring it is embedded across their workforces

In the connected, always-on world in which we are bombarded with information and messages, it will be the leaders who are able to create time and space for meaningful and honest conversations about real issues that are impacting their team and the organisation. Rialto has also encountered more organisations building this type of approach into their leadership development programmes. They want to empower leaders to be able to have consequential conversations to those above and below them to help drive decision-making. 

6 Building resilience and agility across organisations

Many of the problems that leaders face today and in future cannot be solved with traditional approaches so they must be able to quickly adapt their thinking and actions.

Resilience, agility and adaptability have been a pre-requisite part of a leader’s make-up since the global recession more than 10 years ago. The rapid pace of change and development will continue to place a premium on these traits. Leaders must be able to challenge their own thinking as well as that of others. They need to be able to adapt to work in ecosystems as these will be a source of new thinking that could lead to solutions.

The next decade will not only be about leaders building their own resilience and agility though but ensuring it is embedded across their workforces. The ongoing transformation organisations face can take its toll and lead to employees hitting a point of diminishing performance which prevents them from delivering on goals. Leaders must help them to build their resilience but also ensure they create supportive, properly resourced working environments.


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