6 Main Challenges of Leadership Development

Most leadership programs are taught in a way that fails to provide the necessary support and guidance for transferring learning back to work. Research summarized by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers” shows that developing the experience in fiction writing, figure skating or leadership requires 10,000 hours of practice, much more than a one-day seminar, a one-week training program, or a two-year MBA. Furthermore, leadership programs are often taught by HR staff, talent managers and consultants, individual contributors with no real leadership experience, making it difficult to translate theory into practice. This outdated content fails to convey the innovative spirit that leaders need to have.

We offer an in-house leadership development program for supervisors and managers that virtually eliminates problems caused by poor leadership skills. Your supervisors and managers will learn 10 basic leadership skills, such as communication, conflict resolution, and how to deal with difficult employees. The complexity of today's business world requires CEOs to communicate at multiple levels. For example, you need to create the company's vision and persuade your team to make it their vision as well.

You need to connect on an individual level and inspire people to move from “me” to “we”. And you have to build trust by making sure that your verbal communication and your nonverbal actions reinforce each other. Effective communication is very difficult because it requires commitment. It must make effective communication a priority and that requires discipline, coherence, clarity of the message and the willingness to stay there day after day.

By implementing a structured communication system that connects with all stakeholders at the right level, you can dramatically improve your effectiveness as a leader and drive faster growth at both the top and bottom levels. Keeping employees and stakeholders on the same page is also essential, especially in the fast-paced business environment. Communicating with key players about program changes, meetings, product performance, and obstacles will ensure that everyone involved in your organization is up to date with what is happening. To address this leadership problem, start by being more transparent and honest with yourself and your employees.

Transparency is essential to running a successful business, as transparent leaders can build a company culture based on trust and respect. The last thing employees want is not to know how their organization works. By being honest with your employees and communicating good and bad news to them, you can motivate them and increase productivity. Why is leadership such a hot topic? In a nutshell, companies now need a new generation of leaders everywhere.

As companies become flatter and more dynamic, every professional or line worker is often pushed into a leadership position, whether as a supervisor, manager, or simply project leader. So leaders are younger and more common than ever. Context is a fundamental component of successful leadership. A brilliant leader in one situation doesn't necessarily perform well in another.

Academic studies have proven this and our experience confirms this. The CEO of a large European service company we know had an outstanding record when markets were growing rapidly, but he did not provide clear direction or impose financial discipline on the group's business units during the most recent economic downturn. Instead, it continued to encourage innovation and new thinking, the hallmarks of the culture that had previously brought success until it was finally replaced by poor performance. For a European retail bank that was eager to improve its sales performance, the skill that mattered most (but had a shorter offer) was the ability to persuade and motivate peers without the formal authority of hotline management.

This art of influencing other people outside formal information lines runs counter to the rigid structures of many organizations. In this company, it was critical for sales managers to persuade IT to change the systems and approaches to work that burdened managers in the sales organization, whose time was desperately needed to introduce important sales acceleration measures. When managers were able to focus on changing systems and approaches to work, the bank's productivity increased by 15 percent. When it comes to program curriculum planning, companies face a delicate balancing act.

On the one hand, there is value in off-site programs (many in college-like settings) that give participants time to step back and escape the pressing demands of daily work. On the other hand, even after very basic training sessions, adults usually retain only 10 percent of what they hear in classes compared to nearly two-thirds when learning by doing. Emerging leaders often struggle to transfer even their most powerful external experiences to front-line behavior change. One approach is to assess the extent of behavior change perhaps through a 360-degree feedback exercise at the beginning of one program followed by another after 6-12 months.

Leaders can also use these tools to demonstrate their own commitment to real change for themselves and their organization. We found that leaders around the world are constantly facing the same 6 main challenges even if they describe their leadership challenges and specific context in different ways. It can be surprising to find such consistency in these challenges given that leaders came from all corners of the world as well as from different industries organizations and work environments however it seems that in general these 6 leadership challenges remain constant: lack of communication; lack of trust; lack of motivation; lack of transparency; lack of context; lack of commitment.

Edna Freemon
Edna Freemon

Freelance coffee lover. Friendly pop culture buff. Music maven. Professional twitter maven. Unapologetic zombie junkie. Lifelong food lover.

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