Preparing for the brave new world of leadership

Technology is shifting today’s world dramatically and executive development programs need to keep up. Modern executive development must prepare leaders for leading in the new digital environment.

Anyone with recent experience in talent development and human resources knows all too well that many executives today lack strong visionary leadership skills. Senior leaders need to be better prepared for leading in the new business paradigm.

A recent study on executive development reports that more than 50 percent of respondents agree that the next generation of leaders lacks the ability to attract, develop and retain key talent needed to achieve business objectives.

So how does leadership training need to change? Today’s organizations have very little appetite for mediocre training that doesn’t produce results. In-depth theory, a “sage on the stage,” or “death by PowerPoint” learning leaves leaders to interpret how training should be applied back on the job. Training that allows a leader to practice making the strategy a reality with their team within the flow of work is in high demand to accomplish three major, often interrelated, goals for organizations:

  • Turning strategy into action.
  • Enabling transformation or culture shifts.
  • Helping people and teams become high performers.

Shifting trends in the market continue to drive the need to re-focus executive development efforts. In order to do so, we need to reflect on the latest major themes in talent development and human resources. In 2019, three themes emerge as the most prominent.

1. Companies are seeking applicable, actionable training initiatives that are directly aligned to their strategy, culture and evolving business models.

In other fields, like the military or sports, teams practice their strategy, exercise moves and counter-moves, learn the playbook, and study the competition before they go to battle or play the game live. Unsurprisingly, businesses benefit from similarly rigorous and realistic training. 

Any time you’re trying to drive transformation, it’s key to run “experiments” that simulate how the situation would occur in real life. In the corporate world, business simulations are the best way to do this. Customized business simulations serve as the experimental phase that allows your leaders to learn and try out new behaviors in a risk-free environment. The feedback provided throughout the simulation also introduces participants to new concepts and provides them with actionable tools that they can apply in the workplace.

2. Companies are shifting their expectations of leaders to shift company culture.

Many companies are experiencing either a major strategic pivot, such as shifting from one product to a suite, from one customer segment to another, or to a services business model. Or they are in the middle of a large evolution aimed to help them innovate more quickly and keep up with relentless customer demands. Organizations are also being affected by the evolving values of the different generations of workers: millennials and Gen X.

As a result, new values and expectations are being established for how leaders need to think about their roles, and show up for and empower their teams. These new leadership models are written by the C-suite with input from all levels within the organization and are forming the new basis for all training and talent services. This new definition of what it means to lead results in updates to training that leverage a more accurate and data-driven approach to assessment, development and succession.

3. A continuously changing culture is now a mandate.

Companies are reacting to advancements in technology. The old saying, “learn ahead of the pace of change in our industry,” is now quite difficult due to the exponentially faster pace of technological change, yet it is a requirement for competitiveness. As a result, many companies are asking their people to embrace ideas like those from Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset or Liz Wiseman’s “rookie mindset and continuously learn to do new jobs and work in new ways.

Companies are supporting this request with platforms that help employees track past roles, the skills they have developed, and where they want to be stretched moving forward, serving up both learning and the future career opportunities on a single platform. We also see a broader, more creative partnership with boutique learning partners, corporate universities, community colleges and other partners to create a “learning and re-tooling for life” mindset.

Tech organizations like those that feature a software-enabled end-user experience like Apple, Amazon or Uber have shifted people’s expectations for how they learn and interact with content. Learning needs to be highly personalized, so that leaders can access the material they need to know, deeply contextualized to their role, when they need it.

Factors around us continue to change the world at a high speed. This naturally impacts the way organizations do business, and the way executives need to act and lead for the business to thrive. Are your leaders prepared for the journey in today’s brave new world?


Written by Jessica Parisi for CW Observer