Open Source Leadership roundtable discussion, 13 September 2018, London
As L&D/Talent practitioners (and indeed for us as a leadership success partner) it takes a certain amount of honesty and vulnerability to declare that when it comes to developing successful leaders, our current tools and approaches are not really cutting it.
Last week, in London, we were delighted to be joined by senior learning professionals, HR and business leaders for a breakfast discussion around the future of leadership development. Our guests represented the engineering, insurance, legal, financial services, housing, and manufacturing sectors; and collectively represent organisations with approximately 550,000 employees and over £80 billion in revenues. Very different businesses, operating in very different environments. Yet the leadership challenge was overwhelmingly shared by all.
The fact is, we are still relying on the management approaches of the manufacturing era. A time when it was sufficient for leaders to focus on error reduction to drive productivity. Eliminating judgement and creativity from the production process was in part critical to driving economic success. This has led to phenomenal change with huge benefits for industry and society.
Fast forward to the digital age and it’s clear that production and innovation are integrated. We need to drive employee behaviours towards creative, high judgement activities. Today’s ‘knowledge workers’ have increasing autonomy, with an expectation to manage themselves and with responsibility for their own levels of productivity. Continuous innovation and learning – led by the individual – underpin high performance. Because the world of work has and is changing so fast, work is being transformed. Everyone leads, every day. And we need even more leadership from everyone moving forward. Do we all have the tools at our fingertips that enable us to be successful in those leadership moments?
Our discussion mirrored findings from AchieveForum’s latest research of more than 400 businesses: There is a clear thirst for sustained learning that, for the most part, we are simply not yet seeing. The holy grail of behaviour change, it seems, is still an aspiration. And so our roundtable conversation turned to the exploration of Open Source Leadership Development.
Key ‘leadership success’ areas explored
- Who defines the standard of behaviour change? Who enforces it? Research shows that real behaviour change is significantly more likely to happen when peers have defined and enforced the change themselves. The least effective approach is paradoxically the most common: manager designed; peer enforced behaviour change.
- What are the implications of this for leadership development? Peer-led initiatives are overwhelmingly more likely to succeed. Finding non-coercive ways to influence behaviour change is critical. The key is enabling peers to contribute, and holding themselves accountable.
- Failing leadership is a shared problem that requires a shared solution. How do we as a society address these challenges? Is it a problem too huge for us to tackle in silos? Glimpses of successful leadership development come to surface when we break through the organisational barriers and turn to collaboration – cross-organisation; cross-industry. Such consortiums depend on co-design, and bring obvious benefits of pooled resources and costs. It doesn’t come without challenge – not least the reality that competition may undermine openness.
- Leadership development investment should focus on value. Invest in what we know really makes a difference – embedding leadership capability for everyday leadership moments. This ‘in the moment’ support is a game-changer, yet with so many employees needing help, limited resources are often a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. How do coaching and training align? Is immersive learning the only way to enable behaviour change? How will the next generations consume workplace learning? How will organisations provide this support at scale?
We’re excited to continue the conversation with such passionate, talented learning professionals. Failing leadership affects us all and will require a leap of faith in collaboration and co-creation if we are to make a difference and bring leadership development into the modern age.
Interested in finding out more?
Our next London event is scheduled for 7 February 2019 – email us for further details and an invitation.