Recently, we talked about three trends in leadership development that are influencing your people development roadmap. Building your bench, upskilling your employees, and promoting a culture of learning are at the forefront of the leadership agenda. But how are you distributing these opportunities within your organization? Is leadership development in your agency reserved for a select few? Or have you begun to consider a broader strategy for your entire workforce?
One mindset shift is the idea of scaling opportunities for a greater number of employees. With a distributed leadership approach, organizations recognize that the work of leadership takes place among the people. Rather than developing certain characteristics of an individual leader or catering to a select group of high-potential successors, distributed leadership focuses on how to engage all people to be influencers across an organization.
This leadership development philosophy is perfect for a post-pandemic workplace. Working virtually has helped to level the playing field for most organizations in several ways. In many organizations, all staff now have better access to development opportunities.
Organizational politics are diminishing
With no office, what has happened to office politics? HBR asks: “Can we expect a reduction in bias and nepotism, and an increase in meritocratic talent management practices? Is technology sanitizing the dark side of human behavior at work, forcing us to focus on our actual job performance, reducing the impact of informal networks and soft power at work?”
Without the typical interpersonal dynamics nurtured through an in-person environment, you have an opportunity to reset the working atmosphere for your employees. This includes a culture upgrade, if needed, and a fresh approach to developing all staff. When politics are not as much at play, your people can reset relationships, diversify their networks, and show off their substance.
Capabilities are beating personality
Speaking of substance, in a primarily virtual workplace, capability beats charisma. On Zoom or Teams, every person has their own box, and every box is the same size. Extroverts do not overshadow introverts, and all personalities can emerge on their own terms.
This new environment is allowing unexpected leaders to emerge. No longer is the loudest, most talkative, or highly enthusiastic person tapped for leadership simply because they stand out. Today leadership capabilities that are much more important than charisma include agility, resilience, and adaptability. How can you capitalize on this shift and continue to develop these in-demand qualities in all of your people?
High potentials are being redefined
Prior to the pandemic you may have tapped a neat and tidy bench of successors. You identified which employees in your organization were high-potentials and determined how you would develop their skills to a state of leadership readiness. Perhaps you had a robust system of metrics in place to define what “high potential” looked like, or maybe you used subjective instinct more often than not.
But if COVID taught us anything about our succession plans, it is that we had it wrong. The skills our organizations truly required to thrive through the pandemic were not the ones we had identified, and the people we needed to lead us turned out to be different, too. Take time to reexamine who have emerged as true leaders in your organization today. And help to remove any barriers for them so they can keep on leading.
The domino effect
If you plan to reset your leadership development strategy to be more equitable and inclusive, here are some next steps you can take to better distribute leadership capacity throughout your organization.
- Ask your people to help you with the development lift. For example, peer coaching is one method for disseminating critical knowledge and skills.
- Curate a suite of resources that your employees find especially helpful for their own professional development and share this knowledge with the entire organization.
- Create entry points and pathways for all employees who want to grow into positions of leadership to have the opportunity to do so.
- Clearly communicate your current influencer capabilities and ensure all staff understand how they can develop these traits going forward.
If you want to create a leadership development approach that serves all of your people while enabling your organization to meet its critical priorities, Brighter Strategies is here to help. Contact us today to learn more.