How Leaders Learn
If Leaders are Key, How Do Leaders Learn and Develop?
There are 3 great pillars to learning and development.
1) primarily, leaders learn through the job—varied job assignments, 2) education/training, 3) self-development—learners taking responsibility for their own development.
Learning Through the Job
There are eight job challenges that produce leadership learning and these should be considered part of the learning and development strategies for leaders (i.e., deliberately create or place leaders into these situations):
- Adapting to the styles, temperament, and standards of a diverse array of bosses.
- Building an effective team from scratch, or overcoming incompetence or resistance from subordinates, or leading former peers, bosses, or older employees.
- Working with people not previously encountered – such as senior executives, clients, unions, joint venture partners, or people from other cultures.
- Being placed in a “high stakes’ situation – such as a highly visible project, a tight deadline, or a high financial or other risk.
- Being placed in an adverse or ambiguous situation – such as resource shortfalls, technology change, union on strike, equipment malfunction, or insufficient information.
- Having to lead by “remote control” because the scope or complexity of the mission, organization, resources, or geographical dispersion is great.
- Working under a personal disadvantage – such as the ‘wrong’ functional background.
- Having to deal with great change – such as moving two levels up, or moving from operational oversight to technical staff (or vice versa).
How might leadership development be linked to the needs of the business?
Primarily, results-oriented organizations develop individual and organizational competencies that 1) look outward to the market and specific customer segment, and 2) look inward to business processes that serve the customer.
Focus on the following kinds of competencies as you design and develop your programs to make your development programs produce a greater return to the business and be more meaningful to participants. Too many organizations put in place development programs that do not relate to the needs of the business. HR loses credibility as a business partner by failing to make these important connections between development and business capabilities.
Competencies that Look Out to Market
How many of your development programs focus on the following?
- Marketing capabilities
- Knowledge of customers
- Knowledge of competitors
- Integration of marketing activities
- The ability to segment and target specific markets
- Effectiveness of pricing programs
- Effectiveness of advertising programs
- Market-linking capabilities
- Market-sensing capabilities
- Customer-linking capabilities
- Ability to retain customers
- Channel-bonding capabilities
- IT systems for market knowledge creation
- Marketing planning process
Competencies that Look Inward to Business Processes
How many of your development programs focus on these abilities?
- New Product Development (NPD)
- Manufacturing processes
- Technology development capabilities
- Predicting technological changes
- Operation of production facilities
- Durable relationship with suppliers
- Information technology capabilities development
- IT systems for NPD projects
- IT systems for functional integration
- IT systems for tech knowledge creation
- IT systems for internal communication
- Management capabilities development
- Integrated logistics systems
- Cost control capabilities development
- Financial management
- HR management
- Profitability and revenue forecasting
These are just some examples; competencies relative to the above lists can be developed at both the organizational and individual levels.