The Case for Leadership Development

The most successful organizations, no matter whether it is business, education, government, nonprofit or military, are the ones with the best leaders. Great leadership goes beyond having a CEO who can communicate a vision and get team members to embrace that vision (though, that is extremely important). Organizations need great leaders at every level. It makes no difference how large or small the team is — the most important characteristic on that team is leadership.

A devastating recession forced organizations to consolidate, merge, downsize and reduce budgets. All of that led to a large number of experienced leaders transitioning out of the workplace. In most cases, those leaders were replaced by leaders with less experience.

Unfortunately, budget reductions for training programs meant that leaders not only lacked necessary experience, they were not able to be equipped for growth at a time when it was needed the most.

Today’s leaders are facing many new, extremely challenging circumstances. All teams are being required to do more with less. The pace is much faster. That often leads to increased stress and tension in the workplace. Potential problems that result can include an increase in conflict, and declines in teamwork, morale, productivity and employee satisfaction — all of which leads to costly turnover.
This is a particular threat to organizations that are growing, in some cases rapidly. Leaders can easily become so focused on issues related to growth that they aren’t aware of the crumbling team dynamics that are happening underneath the radar.

Additionally, leaders today have to grapple with the fact that organizations now have three generations in the workplace – Baby Boomers, X-Generation and Millennials – all of whom have very different attitudes about work and their own careers. In many cases, younger managers are now supervising older workers, which presents another complex set of challenges.

Finally, the latest Gallup research released this summer shows that 70 percent of employees are not engaged in their work — that is a leadership issue!

Research has shown that the quality of leadership consistently accounts for a 20-45 percent difference in a company’s bottom line. Leadership development programs make good financial sense — there is a proven return on investment, especially when you consider the cost of turnover, which equates to 150 percent of a salary package.
Leadership development programs can easily be customized to fit the size and budget of your organization. Here are three components you should consider:

Training Programs. Develop a thoughtful strategy with an eye on the long-term. Training needs to go beyond the desire to attend a seminar with a big name speaker. You need to consider the skills that should be developed and give considerable thought to how best to achieve that. You can develop your own training programs and/or rely on outside expertise. Most companies with well-developed programs do a combination of both.

Coaching. A good coaching program is one of the best ways to foster individual development. Coaches and their coachees work together to identify goals and action plans to achieve those goals in a confidential setting. The fact that the coachee is accountable to the coach for their efforts builds progress and accountability into the coaching program.

Mentoring. Employees who have gone through mentorship experience higher career satisfaction, career commitment, career mobility and have more positive job attitudes. Twenty five percent of employees who enrolled in a mentoring program have a salary grade increase and are promoted six times more often than non-mentoring program participants.

An organization with a reputation for developing its talent will be able to attract and retain the best talent. Be committed to a culture where leaders know how to communicate a vision and empower team members to implement that vision. If you have a culture where team members feel valued and know they will be given every opportunity to develop themselves to their full potential, you will have an engaged, highly satisfied workforce and a profitable bottom line.

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