50 Best Practices in Leadership Development
Also new this year is our listing of the 50 best practices in Leadership Development. This is a chance to learn from the best to improve your program or process.
- Define meanings, design model. Know what leadership means to you and have a model for developing it.
- Ownership: Program participants own their development.
- Branding: Plan/process/program designed to deliver certain brand of leader.
- Alignment of LD with the culture, values, and strategy. Top management, as the voice of strategy, must play a visible and active role and review how LD efforts support business initiatives. Identify real-time business issues and listen to and provide feedback on recommended solutions by program participants. Align leadership behaviors with strategies to keep focused on the end-game of success.
- Purpose. Aligning leadership behaviors to strategy creates a core purpose for LD and prevents LD practices becoming ends in themselves. The best LD systems enable execution of business strategy. They are anchored in—and driven by— strategy. Leadership traits must mirror and keep pace with the strategic challenges. Leaders must possess the right skills and orientations to launch, test, and revise strategies as necessary. This requires alignment of leadership skills to strategy.
- Involvement of top management and en-gagement of top talent (active leadership commitment, sponsorship and visibility). Executive endorsement lends credibility to LD efforts and elevates the experience of participants.
- Design in multiple dimensions, phases, and delivery platforms.
- Predetermine what you want your leaders to know, be and do as a result of the LD.
- On-job experience: Field or special assignments/crucible challenges.
- Off-job experience: leader role in extracurricular and volunteer activities.
- Action Learning: Performance with reporting, shared learning, and action items.
- Simulation, pilot, or small-scale operation.
- Developmental assignments, meetings with global counterparts. People learn to lead by doing, so focus on experiential learning. Emphasize experience over classroom training.
- Action orientation. The best LD tools tend to be actionable and leveraged to real business solutions. LD produces higher performance by improving leader effectiveness. Tailor LD systems to business realities. Strategies for growing leaders shift with changing demands.
- Experiential learning. Such learning includes moving leaders onto special projects, task forces, or new initiatives; embedding real-world problems into LD programs; challenging leaders to take on real problems with immediate feedback and payback; connecting participants to projects that have real consequences.
- Networking. Bonding occurs as individuals work together. Taking on challenges establishes a crucible that forges strong relationships. These networks strengthen as leaders mature. Bring together leaders from different disciplines to work on special projects. Co-mingling of participants tends to break down barriers and promote synergistic problem-solving.
- Rotational assignments. Rotate participants across disciplines, divisions, functions, and geographies. Complexity and specialization are barriers. Use these assignments to round out the leadership package in a way that positions individuals for senior leadership positions.
- Social/political competence: Enlighten participants on how to cope well with the social and political elements of leadership.
- Learning modules/magazine articles on most relevant topics.
- Define the deficiencies/gaps and identify the critical content and topics.
- Case studies, stories, culture values.
- Community/team building exercises and activities.
- Different agenda and curriculum for different levels of managers and leaders.
- Focus on a few, company-specific core competencies. Have a focused set of competencies—three, four or five competencies—that become the focal point for developing leaders in each unit. As the strategic demands change, LD priorities may also shift. Leadership competencies migrate as the demands evolve.
- Smart Content: Content and curriculum adapted to different levels of managers and leaders in strategic context.
- Tailored leadership competencies: Isolate and agree on the key competencies. Limit competency models to a few competencies, and prioritize them to fit the changing needs.
- Competencies as the development core. Competencies stand as the primary clusters of knowledge, behavior and motivations. Defining a set of organization-specific leadership competencies guides LD efforts.
- Focused and prioritized few. A formal and focused leadership competency model sets behav-ioral expectations for leaders at all levels. This allows the virtual collection of leadership experience by generating guidelines on how leaders should think, act and interact. A leadership competency framework helps define the culture.
- Identify the leadership competencies that drive business results—the core competencies from which the specific prioritized few are selected. As leaders move up, their skills must shift from people and project management to strategic business and operations management.
- Leadership curriculum designs. Most LD programs have a voluntary curriculum. Those that have specialized, customized, mandatory LD programs tend to identify the program as essential to elevating leader potential. Create fluid designs incorporating just-in-time response elements, including eLearning and blended learning solutions.
- Create individual development plans. Help participants select the top two priorities for action learning. Individualize development by bringing in the right skill sets at the right time, using case studies, external education, e-learning, and other media.
- Teaching others, and learning from others. Involve leaders in developing other leaders. Participants enjoy attending programs with senior leaders as teachers, both in classrooms and in experiential or action learning applications. This expands the impact of the LD program exponentially. Bring leaders in to formal organized sessions—whether it’s in-person, face-to-face sessions, or delivered virtually.
- 360-feedback and feed-forward with team members. Use external executive coaches and deploy 360-degree assessments and feedback tools, along with feed-forward activities.
- Target all levels of leadership: Have elements that apply to line managers for basic training; functional managers for leadership, management, vision; and top leaders using external education and consultants.
- Multi-dimensional learning designs and platforms. Incorporate a range of learning techniques and delivery mechanisms. These curriculums incorporate fluid design elements to target learning interventions—e-learning, experiential, classroom or blended—that are real-time and real-life. Classroom and e-learning tools are more prevalent for managers. Senior-level LD programs are more likely to incorporate experiential and action-learning techniques.
- Integrate with talent management: To build a sustainable leadership pipeline, assess leadership potential, identify successors, and place these individuals into the right development programs. Integrate TM processes with Performance Management, Succession Planning, Recruitment and Selection, Promotion and Compensation, OD, and Culture.
- Engage senior leaders as teachers, mentors, and coaches.
- Monitor progress on action learning.
- Use both internal and external coaches and mentors.
- Agree on performance standards.
- Link stated values and actual behaviors with measurements.
- Supply mentoring and coaching for emerging and senior leaders.
- Proactive process of mentorship so employees gain support from direct managers and from people outside the management chain. This enables leaders to develop themselves even as they develop others.
- Orientation: Have an employee/customer/market orientation.
- Measure and track results against desired outcomes.
- Require accountability for behaviors, performance, and financial results.
- Scope: LD includes all leadership recruitment, placement and succession planning; development of the benches and pipelines, filling critical gap leadership roles.
- Outreach: Great LD programs benefit all stakeholders, cultivate loyalty and longevity, and inspire service, even sacrifice.
- Evaluate ROI in LD. Assess LD outcomes informally and anecdotally, with some connection between LD and bottom-line outcomes.
- Define expected results in LD. The true value of LD is difficult to assess due to the gap between desired and actual practice in measuring development effectiveness. As LD is more integrated with strategic activities, its value becomes more measurable and apparent.