“The expert in anything was once a beginner”, said Helen Hayes, First Lady of American Theatre.
Helen Hayes won multiple awards and inspired millions of people with her acting. She was undoubtedly an expert in acting and she reminds all of us that experts keep learning and performing as a continuous process to be an expert over time. Doing just one of them is not going to help. Top leaders of an organisation are experienced and have proven themselves to be better than many others around them in their competencies to play the roles they do. However, given the rapid changes all around, the methods and styles they have found fruitful in the past could be failing now. They need to move paradigms!
Upskilling the leadership team
The business environment is constantly evolving, with new technologies and socio-economic changes, we see expectations and aspirations of the stakeholders in a business emerge regularly. By upskilling, leaders can stay updated on these changes and develop the necessary skills to navigate and respond effectively.
Effective leaders need strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills to make informed decisions. Given the nature of uncertainties and volatilities in the business environment, our leaders are in a stressed situation more often than not. We have to help them sharpen their analytical abilities, develop a strategic mindset, and enhance their ability to address the complexities of today.
Also, we need our employees to stay committed to the cause of their learning and development. There are no two ways about this. When the top leaders aren’t investing energies in their upskilling, how can they inspire and motivate their team members to acquire new skills and apply them? They need to demonstrate a commitment to learn, adapt and grow. The employees in turn are more likely to exhibit greater interest and be in high spirits to deploy the newly acquired skills at work and generate greater productivity.
How to go about it?
Every business has its context. The opportunities available in the market and the challenges faced by them are unique in many ways. Hence, the approach to expanding one’s horizon has to be tailor-made.
Every member of the top-level leadership team has his or her strengths and personality characteristics. Since a top-level leader has a significant influence over the organisation’s present and future, we have to undertake a personalised approach to develop them. It is more important at this level than for the leadership development approaches followed for the other levels of leadership in a firm.
We have to conduct a comprehensive assessment of each person in the top team of his or her current strengths and identify areas where they may need improvement. This involves assessing their beliefs, biases, styles, preferences and abilities; super-imposing these on the organisation’s priorities and future intent. Based on the identified skill gaps, we have to design a development journey that addresses the specific needs of each person in the leadership team. This development journey could include one-on-one coaching, workshops, seminars, online courses, or executive education programs provided by external experts or institutions.
It is a journey rather than a destination
We have to foster a culture of continuous learning within the organisation for the environment is continuously transforming itself. Hence, the development programme is not just a one-time activity, rather it is the beginning of a journey which is never-ending. The members of the top team must appreciate and understand the need of learning continuously.
Leaders must engage in self-directed learning, such as reading industry publications, attending conferences, participating in webinars, or joining professional networks. They have to use the relevant resources and share the knowledge among team members. Executive coaching and mentoring are effective in ongoing development.
Many forward-looking organisations believe in role rotation so that the members can take on different responsibilities and roles within the same organisation. This process might sound disruptive but helps the leaders learn about the diverse challenges and opportunities, enriches their experiences, broadens their horizons and ultimately builds a formidable leadership team.
This is a strategic initiative aimed at enhancing the skills and capabilities of an organisation’s leaders as well as for the long-term sustainability of the organisation. It involves providing them with training, resources, and support to improve their leadership abilities, stay updated with the latest industry trends, and adapt to the evolving business landscape.