Article (February-2019)


Leadership development - The missing links

Sandiep Grovar

Designation : -   Senior HR Consultant

Organization : -  Senior HR Consultant


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If there was only one factor that needs to be made responsible for the success or failure of any organisation, it is arguably the quality of leadership in the organisation. Organisations have always needed leaders who are good at recognizing emerging challenges and taking appropriate actions to mitigate those.  Now these are known facts and any organisation worth mentioning is trying to do whatever is feasible to ensure such leadership development takes place. However, the fact of the matter is - majority of these organisations have failed to create such leaders. There is plethora of evidence to show that books, seminars, Ted talks, conferences and workshops have delivered disappointing results. According to a Fortune survey, only 7 percent of the CEOs believe that their companies are building effective global leaders and just 10 percent says their leadership development have a clear business impact. In a more recent Mckinsey study, only 11 percent of over 500 executives polled, agreed that their leadership development interventions achieve and sustain the desired results.

Let's try and examine some of the probable reasons that we can comprehend, especially in the Indian context.

It is funny, most of the times, how the TNI is collated - HR takes inputs from PMS, 360-degree feedback or Assessment centre's feedback to understand gaps in the behavioural competencies and the organisational needs.

Great, once all the needs are collated - programs are designed to capture all the relevant needs.

How can same set of competencies or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, organisational culture or CEO mandate?

In the early stages of planning an initiative, its extremely vital to understand the why? Why are we having a particular initiative? Remember the "Golden Circle" phenomenon in the "Theory of Change"? First start with "Why" and then move to "What" and "How".

In the context of Leadership development - it is ironic that most of the times, L&D professionals try to bring an intervention or a tool that's available off the shelf and then it is "tweaked" to suit the needs of the organisation or tweak the needs of the organisation to suit the availability of the tool.

Technology can play a big role to break out the "Teacher Classroom" model of training that has been in the vogue for time immortal. We all know the 70:20:10 learning model, that has proved to be an effective tool to enable learning and development to prepare the organisations deal with VUCA environment.

In today's world, Simulation games can play a very impactful and effective role in mitigating the challenges. Learning at the speed of the business enhances business agility and create the team's business needs at short notice.

Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt. Ltd., manages the McDonald restaurants in India's West & South markets since 1995. They had a mandate to prepare their staff down to take up ownership for both top-line and bottom line, as they were opening over 40 stores each year. The company wanted its Operations managers who were having responsibility for groups of 20 - 25 restaurants each to move from an operations role to business manager role. They developed a simulation training module with the help of a technology company based in Bangalore. This module trained their operations staff to tackle the typical challenges faced by a business manager in a simulation environment. Like a trainee pilot, who is trained on a simulator for number of hours before he is given permission to even fly as a co-pilot - these budding business managers were also trained in a non-threatening but almost in a real environment and successful managers were moved to their new role. Result - sales growth of 26%.

Last but by no means the least, is the reluctance of the organisations to disregard efforts of the leaders to change or even actively working against them.

Senior leaders have a great role here to not only actively participate in the efforts of the team to manoeuvre change, but most importantly create the right perception in the eyes of all stake holders. Technology can play a vital role here as well. Blogs, Video messages and social media platforms help leaders to actively engage with a large number of people as they seek to foster understanding, create conviction and act as role models for the desired leadership behaviour and competencies.

The CEOs need to come out of mere lip service and delegating complete responsibilities to the head of learnings, only for the individual to complain about lack of support from above. Given the fact that CEOs are pulled in various directions and realise that any leadership development intervention will not make any significant impact on performance in the short run, the CEOs are bound to be reluctant to showcase their full and active involvement and support. I have known CEOs who do their own 360-degree feedback and then make the result public (good and bad) for them to showcase the fact that they are willing to change.

In today's times, where change is much more vociferous, the CEOs can not afford to take a back seat in leadership development. They have to show their seriousness by making an all-out effort that works in their organisation. Similarly, the CHROs and L&D fraternity need to simplify and ensure learning happens through an experiential way.