The Critical Need for Sound Leadership

Posted on: August 10, 2020, by :
Collaboration between two business females.

Not All Leaders Are Prepared to Lead

If you’ve recently found yourself frustrated and confused by leadership, you’re not alone. Being able to take charge during periods of rapid change and deal effectively with ambiguity are key competencies needed in today’s leaders.

We need individuals who are decisive, trustworthy, and capable of creating solutions today that position us for the future. We need empathetic leaders who understand that local actions may have global implications.

Unfortunately, not all leaders are prepared to lead. The same reasons that contributed their assuming leadership positions may make it even more difficult for them to lead. 

Subject matter or domain specific expertise, relationships, or even urgent needs to fill vacancies, are a few of the reasons that individuals are placed in leadership positions within short time frames. Organizational culture, inadequate search processes, or other internal challenges may also contribute to unqualified individuals being placed in leadership positions. While many may aspire to leadership, not all are prepared to lead.

Organizations need sound leadership now; they cannot always wait for individuals to grow and develop in anticipation of assuming leadership positions.

Organizations don’t always have the luxury of time; many will learn by doing.

Mistakes by new leaders are more likely to occur in the absence of mentors and developmental opportunities. Performance will suffer in those who lack emotional intelligence and the ability to think strategically and operationally. The result, all too often, is the loss of talent or market share.

Here are some practices that will improve confidence and performance so you can secure and develop the talent needed for sound leadership.

Update Competency Models

Yesterday’s leadership competency models are inadequate to meet today’s needs. The pace of change and the dynamics of our global public health crisis and economy, force organizations to rethink and update how individuals are hired, promoted, and retained.

Leadership competency models must address strategic communication, navigating ambiguity, and leadership development. Equally important is innovative learning that addresses being proactive rather than reactive, learning by gathering insight from others, using collaboration to solve problems, and preparing for anticipated change.   

Focus on Innovative Learning

It is not uncommon for organizations to connect learning and development activities to performance evaluations. This practice fails to account for the performance required to successfully navigate change.

The practice of maintenance learning addresses growth and learning related to performance gaps and anticipated activities. It doesn’t address developing the skills and abilities needed to adjust rapidly to change, embrace failure as a means of learning, or how to use design thinking to rapidly make ideas a reality.

Maintenance learning is inadequate for competitive organizations or even for organizations that simply want to survive or thrive during times of unprecedented change. Maintenance learning prepares us for adjusting to circumstances as they are, not how they will be.

The elements of innovative learning include being proactive rather than reactive, learning by gathering insight from others, and using collaboration to solve problems and prepare for anticipated change.

Innovative learning involves understanding and recognizing the value of current circumstances while proactively using learning to make the future a reality.

Fast Track High Potential Leaders

Talking with high potential leaders can help you better understand their interests and motivation. You may discover a willingness to learn more about other areas of the organization or a desire to take on more responsibility. If so, you can offer stretch assignments or have them participate on cross-functional teams.

Once you understand their aspirations, you can work together on career planning and determine if additional internal developmental opportunities would be appropriate. You may also want to supplement internal activities with external learning.

As roles evolve, it’s important to not overload potential leaders with additional responsibilities and tasks without consideration of current workloads. Remove lower level work so they do not become overwhelmed. Gather feedback as they work through new tasks and identify any gaps in their capabilities, then offer additional developmental opportunities.