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Creating Programs for Developing Leaders, From Emerging Leaders to Executives
While all leaders have common leadership challenges, there are aspects of leadership unique to each leader level. Making the transitions from leading self as an individual contributor to leading others to leading other leaders all require enhanced capabilities.
That's where leadership development programs come in. To deepen talent bench strength, you’ll need two things:
- general development programs applicable to all
- targeted employee leadership training specifically designed for the needs of each audience's next-place and in-place roles
Developing leaders at all levels means approaching each leader level with respect to their current skills and the desired capabilities to ensure there are no gaps in development. Incorporating these key elements of leadership development programs for each level of leader can ensure development in targeted skills.
Here's your guide to customizing development by leader level, with leadership training ideas for your development program:
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 evidence-based leadership skills to prepare for 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
- Leading a key functional project to practice increased responsibility and accountability
- Group coaching to allow emerging leaders to grow together, connect across organizational functions, consider future scenarios and roles, or develop a management mindset
- Mentoring and coaching relationships to expose high-potential leaders to other parts of the business
Developing Middle Management
Seasoned leaders typically have different needs than emerging or senior-level leaders and developing middle managers has to 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 a high-level, complex, real-world business issue with a diverse, cross-functional group
- Individual mentoring and coaching relationships with higher-level or senior leaders to gain understanding of the business as a whole
- Acting as a coach or mentor for emerging, high-potential leaders to develop or strengthen coaching and relational 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 others
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, 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:
- Individual coaching to discuss complex business issues and development goals
- Executive team coaching to increase team cohesion and ability to identify a shared vision
- 360-degree assessments to identify areas of improvement and how they show up to others as leaders
- Executive education programs and advanced degrees to build business acumen and critical industry-specific skills
Bersin by Deloitte found that on average the investment in development per level of leader varies from $8,204 for executives to $2,551 for first-level leaders.* These numbers reflect the increasing complexity of skills required as leaders move throughout our organizations.
Above all, the most critical part of development programs is, of course, reinforcement. Part of the impact that technology has on leadership development includes the personalization of leadership plans and development programs, allowing employees to choose from on-demand resources and activities geared toward leaders’ learning style, pace, interests, and goals.
Each level of leader will prefer different types of reinforcement, but technological options may help bridge the gap between the leader’s day-to-day actions and the skills and development gained in sessions. In-the-moment reinforcement allows for consistent, regular reminders about why achieving the desired skill or behavior change is important to them, how they can master the new knowledge or skills, and what to apply and when to apply it.
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*According to Bersin by Deloitte, 2014: Karen O’Leonard and Jennifer Krider, Leadership Development Investment Increases 14 Percent (Oakland, Calif.: Bersin by Deloitte, 2014).