Does your leadership plan need a reboot?

Agata Nowakowska provides ideas of ways to support leaders navigate disruption

Successful organisations that stand the test of time know that the ability to respond rapidly to disruption represents a competitive advantage and a new opportunity for growth. But envisioning every potential eventuality on the horizon isn’t always possible. Something we’re all acquainted with following the events of the last 18 months.

It is in situations like this when a company’s leadership can make or break a business. So how do you ensure you have the right people in charge and that the appropriate resources are in place to support them?

With change in the workplace increasing in frequency and intensity, how well organisations navigate constant change will depend on whether leaders are being empowered with the right competencies and mindsets to navigate disruption. This means organisations must be hyper alert to any of the warning signs that could signal their leadership plans need a reboot.

1. A high failure rate among first-time managers

A first-time manager is under tremendous pressure, and without the right preparation and coaching, they are more prone to falling flat. This potential failure can cost organisations dear in terms of the resulting impact to team performance goals, employee engagement, productivity, and indeed the culture of the workgroup.

All too often, however, organisations prioritise targeting the bulk of their L&D investment at senior management personnel. Yet preparing people to take their first step into a management role is absolutely crucial, because without the right training and mentoring, these newly appointed managers are simply being set up to fail. Little wonder that new managers often express that they lack the necessary people management or delegation skills needed to perform effectively in their role. In fact, in a recent study, 26% of first-time managers said they did not feel prepared to lead others when they were first promoted and almost 60% said they never received any training when they transitioned into their first leadership role. 

  Organisations must be hyper alert to any of the warning signs that could signal their leadership plans need a reboot


Don’t wait until employees become managers to develop them as leaders. Building your bench is crucial to succession planning – and developing employees to step into future responsibilities is critical to retaining them.

2. Command and control behaviours vs. self-organising teams

Many first-time managers find themselves unprepared to take up their role because they have only ever been exposed to traditional command and control styles of leadership. But today’s business world is now smarter, faster, and far more democratic. As a result, agile is now the name of the game and that means organisations need to leverage the full talent of their workforce.

To boost business agility and encourage people to make quicker and better decisions, a growing number of organisations are flattening their structures and initiating deeply collaborative and cross-functional teams to drive innovation.

In doing so, they’ve recognised that leaders come in many forms – for example, they may lead a functional area, a team, or even a one-time project. Consequently, they are expanding leadership development opportunities and competencies acquisition to encompass more of their employees, while helping mid and senior managers to move beyond the traditional command and control behaviours that can stifle high performance teams.

By equipping these managers with the techniques and soft skills they will need to empower today’s knowledge workers, they are enabling them to build and lead truly self-organising teams that can respond to, and address, challenges fast.

3. Breaking down ‘us and them’ leadership development barriers

As we’ve seen, in the past leadership development was typically the preserve of the few. Yet issues like poor CSAT scores can be indicative that it is time for a training strategy rethink that involves developing and coaching front-line managers, so they have the mindset needed to listen and manage teams in a way that drives customer satisfaction.

By evaluating how to cascade leadership training across the organisation, forward-thinking organisations are able to ensure that the future leaders of tomorrow are supported throughout their journeys: first-time manager, mid-level manager, and leader of leaders. Indeed, by democratising learning, they are implementing a broad-based continuous learning culture that ensures anyone with leadership potential has the opportunity to evolve and grow.

By regularly evaluating each individual’s plan and cross-training employees with contextualised leadership competencies, company knowledge and know-how, they are also re-invigorating how they undertake succession planning – which in turn safeguards future success.

Navigating disruption with confidence

Today’s rapidly-changing business and work environments can leave people and organisations vulnerable to failure. To successfully navigate this persistent change, leaders and their teams must constantly update their skills and capabilities so they, and their respective organisations, can evolve and grow.

Recent events have propelled many organisations into adopting new agile and team-based ways of working that meant they’ve had to reinvent what leadership means – including the skills and behaviours that it entails. They’ve also had to rethink how they fast-track the acquisition of new skills and competencies in the most effective way possible. Utilising digital resources, multi-modal learning resources, and scenario-based learning options that are accessible to all are critical components to any well-rounded, and effective, upskilling programme
As part of this rethink they must also broaden their leadership skills menu. Exposing managers at every level to training in new arenas like emotional intelligence and empathy will revolutionise each and every interaction they have with the people they support.

Agata Nowakowska, area vice president, Skillsoft:



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