Creating Leadership Programs From Emerging Leaders to Executive Leaders
While all leaders have common leadership challenges, there are aspects of leadership unique to each leader level. Making the transition from leading self, to leading others, to leading other leaders are all important jumps on the capability ladder.
That's where leadership development programs come in—if tailored to the needs of each level, we can help our leaders face each milestone with greater confidence and competence.
To deepen talent bench strength, you’ll need two things:
- Foundational management, leadership, and team development programs applicable to all leaders that address the needs they share in common.
- Targeted leadership training specifically designed for the needs of each audience's next-place and in-place roles.
Both require us to understand the content in which leaders are leading. We’ve spent time in the last 18 months talking about how trends like destabilization, decentralization, disillusionment, and disengagement (affectionately called the 4Ds) are severely affecting the context in which leaders are leading.
As practitioners, we know how important it is to innovate our offerings to meet these evolving needs. It’s no easy feat, but we’ve got this!
To help on the skill/capability side of the equation, check out this blog on 8 skills leaders need to develop to meet the challenges of a changing world. In addition, take a deep dive into this topic by joining our webinar, "Aligned to Innovate: Building a Leadership Development Program That Works", coming up on September 30, 2021.
In the meantime, let’s dial in on the 20 things you should be thinking about for your leveled leadership development programs.
DEVELOPING EMERGING LEADERS
Emerging or high-potential leaders are just starting out on their leadership journey. Often, the first steps are to identify the emerging leaders, increase self-awareness, build relational skills, and focus on the shift from managing self to managing others in the future. These early-level leaders are becoming acquainted to the organizational leadership style and common language as they grow and form their leadership plan.
Emerging leader development programs can include elements such as the following:
- Self-assessment to identify current areas of improvement (it’s a start, it’s not a 360-degree assessment, but it’s the beginning of self-awareness).
- Leading a key functional project to practice increased responsibility and accountability.
- Peer-to-peer cohorts to connect emerging leaders together; methods like group coaching can help leaders connect across organizational functions, consider future scenarios and roles, or develop a management mindset—plus it’s cost-effective.
- Mentoring or sponsorship relationships can help leaders navigate next career steps, build their network, and navigate cultural norms.
- Community connection through a volunteer assignment—consider ways you can leverage volunteer relationships to help emerging leaders give back to others in a different context that stretches their understanding of leadership.
- Individualized on-demand learning journeys (through your own e-learning subscriptions)—specialized e-learning can help emerging leaders hungry for development to have access to great content (consider forming clubs where they can learn and discuss with peers).
DEVELOPING MIDDLE MANAGEMENT
Seasoned leaders typically have different needs than emerging or senior-level leaders and developing middle managers must take into special consideration their prior experience. These supervisor, manager, or director-level leaders need learning designed around deepening current skills, engaging and influencing others to amplify results, operating strategically, leading other leaders, and establishing teams.
Middle management development programs can include elements such as the following:
- Exposure to higher-level or senior leaders outside of the organization to deepen outsight.
- Professional or industry association involvement to gain deeper knowledge and connections in the industry.
- Action learning to practice solving high-level, complex, real-world business issues with a diverse, cross-functional group to increase curiosity and collaboration skills.
- One-on-one mentoring and coaching relationships with higher-level or senior leaders to deepen self-awareness.
- Coach or mentor other emerging, high-potential leaders to pay their experience forward and develop or strengthen coaching and empathy skills.
- Cross-functional, cross-level, or international business assignments to diversify experience within the organization across business units or functions.
- Leading a major organizational initiative or full-time strategic project assignment to practice building high-performing teams and leading other leaders.
- Volunteer leadership or board role in an industry or professional association to build experience influencing others.
- 360-degree assessments to identify areas of improvement and how they show up to those around them.
DEVELOPING SENIOR LEADERS
As leaders rise to enterprise-wide executive roles, the complexity of what success looks like increases as well. C-suite leaders are expected to strategically manage the business as a whole and/or specific business units and therefore no longer just manage groups of leaders. These leaders are expected to act as forward-looking visionaries, driving action through others.
Senior leadership development programs can include elements such as the following:
- “Team One” development work to create more cohesion, decrease dysfunction, and create more clarity for the entire organization.
- Individual coaching relationships to allow for the individualization of needs and challenges at this level.
- 360-degree assessments to identify areas of improvement and how to enable their leadership with other leaders.
- Executive education programs and advanced degrees to build business acumen and critical industry-specific skills.
- Keep the progress alive—ensure you don’t fall into the trap of the ebbs and flows or fads of leadership; help your senior team with reinforcement (consider having senior leaders be sponsors of other up-and-coming leaders or have them attend and share their experience in your other leadership programs).
These 20 proven ideas are based on our experiences across many clients (differing in size, industry, and complexity). Think about your audiences more deeply. What will work for you? What wouldn’t work for leaders in your organization? What elements do you feel will help you reach leaders with critical development during a critical time? That is the goal we all share—finding a way to work with leaders to achieve the desired skill or behavior change that will ensure they face the future with competence and confidence.
In order to develop leadership programs that lead to optimal results and a steady and ready pipeline of leaders, I’d challenge you to think critically about your audience, your purpose, your methods, and your desired outcomes.
What a wonderful time to be in this leadership development space! We have the opportunity as practitioners to influence the future of development for years to come. Let’s take advantage of this moment and find ways to meet the demands of our leaders.