Nov 01 2017| Leadership | Values

Identifying and Empowering the Leaders of the Future

Future Leaders: Who, How and When to Empower

by Peter Woodward Associate

Inspiring leaders can greatly enhance an organisation’s potential for success. Why? The most successful leaders challenge their colleagues to strive for the best, supporting and guiding their teams toward challenging goals and outcomes.

So current leaders have the responsibility to continually seek potential leaders with a mission to sustain and develop our organisations at every level. 

So how do we find these leaders and empower them to drive the business forward?   

The Leadership Role

We need leaders to help us identify, understand and refine our purpose; clarifying the rationale of why we do what we do.

However if we are to define who should lead our organisations in the future then we have to drill down in a lot more detail.

We need to identify our particular organisational drivers and what kind of leadership will be required to ensure that critical missions are achieved.

So, where to start?

Looking to the Future

Most organisations will have a strategic planning process.

This normally involves a staffing plan but seldom considers what leadership attributes and capabilities will be required.

Organisations need to build a common view as to what will be required; not only for the short term but also the for the future.

We cannot assume that the next 10 years are going to be the same as the last 10 years so even stable businesses need to plan for the unexpected. We are currently dealing with some very real examples: 

  • What is going to be the fallout from Brexit?
  • How will Guernsey Inc. live up to these challenges
  • What might we ask of leadership in many of our institutions?

Let us also consider technology:

  • What impact will disruptive technology have on businesses?
  • Where will AI be in 10 years time?
  • How will the leaders of our future organisations deal with this?
  • What are the implications for the staff who will still be required?

It’s clear that future leaders will need to be accomplished change masters.

Considering Societal Values

It is evident that changes in societal values are occurring at speed, with an increasing distrust in previously respected institutions. 

Retaining trust in leadership at all levels will be vital; role model behaviours will be required.

‘The Weinstein phenomenon’ is a topical example.

What effect on working relationships will be the fall out of the #MeToo campaign? The ripples from such events could impact on current workplace cultures even here in Guernsey.

Future leaders will need to increase their emotional intelligence quotient to respond effectively and must be capable of ensuring that a positive culture is reinforced throughout the organisation.  

The Leadership Toolkit

On top of the required development of vocational or professional skills required by a changing world there are significant qualitative challenges in leadership style.

Let’s consider some of the processes that can match your future leaders to these needs.

The One-Shot Review 

My experience informs me that a diligent and frank assessment of current leadership strengths and weaknesses is necessary.

This is not to dwell on failure but to explore how critical events might have been influenced by different actions, or calculated risks might have been taken rather than just staying with the status quo.

The Appraisal System

Most organisations have such systems in place. They are typically coupled with an individual development planning process. 

Our experience of such systems is that most are too short term and too limited in driving longer-term leadership development.

To rely on this process alone to identify future leaders and to map their development is seldom sufficient.

Three New Approaches 

It seems to us that organisations should put in place other mechanisms that become part of the organisational fabric.    

  1. Post Event or Post Project Review

This is one of the most powerful tools to identify leadership strengths and areas for development.

As we ask the questions, in a blame-free environment, we begin to understand what went well, what key attributes and strengths contributed to success and what is replicable and repeatable for future success.

  1. Ranking and Rating Process

This is another critical process used by many hi-tech organisations.

Individuals in broad specialisms are ranked in terms of their current contribution to the organisation and their potential for the future with an emphasis on future leaders

I have seen this used very effectively, however, in recent years some US companies have used this process to identify the bottom 10% of their workforce and then pursue aggressive “de-hiring”.

This has discredited those companies where this has seemingly become their prime purpose for the process.

  1. Psychometric Assessment

This a primary tool in the identification of leadership capabilities. While there is no ideal profile, we can use these assessments to aid long-term coaching and personal development.

So now you’ve identified your future leadership requirement what is the clay they will be made from? Let’s focus on the millennial generation and generation Z.

The Millennial Generation

Typically born between the early 80s and the mid-90s this generation is now starting to enter middle and in some cases senior leadership roles.

The website ‘LiveScience’ <insert hyperlink?>  listed some of their key characteristics in September 2017 as the following:

Millennials need to know why they do what they do (Simon Sinek)

  • They live in an era of constant innovation and expect this to be reflected in their workplace
  • Work/life balance is now firmly on the agenda
  • Clarity of where they stand and regular feedback, are expected, educational practices have changed in this respect
  • They know that all the data you ever need is just a click away

Generation Z

Tim Elmore of the Huffington Post identified some of the characteristics of Generation Z.

  • Born since the mid-90s, they are now just coming into the workforce; some as your graduate intake;
  • They are cynical and tend to be more realistic; seemingly jaded from the tough economy, terrorism and complexities of life;
  • They are entrepreneurial and tend to be pioneers rather than settlers in a career;
  • They are used to multi-tasking; they prefer to be on five screens at one, not two, and look around themselves while communicating;
  • They rely on technology and cannot imagine living without being constantly connected;
  • We need to give serious thought as to how we can inspire and lead these new generations and how we can build leadership experiences into their early years;

In summary, the age of deference is dead.

How we empower them will need to take into account these generational trends.

Empowerment and Development

Empowerment is based on the idea that giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunity and motivation will increase their satisfaction and competence. 

Delegating decisions to the lowest competent level in the organization and holding them accountable for their actions, will contribute to their success.

We need to consider what empowerment means in our organisation and how constrained we are by policies, procedures and the current culture.

Employing the Toolkit

Again there are many tools in the toolkit.

For example, Process Mapping focuses on where decisions are made at any stage of the process and at what level in the organisation these decisions be taken.  

The States of Guernsey have been using this process extensively to assist in their definition of new Target Operating Methods  (TOMs).

One major benefit of process mapping is a reduction of ‘Managing in the Grey’. If roles are full of such issues, then the need to request authority from above becomes greater and stunts effective lower-level leadership.

Another tool is Career-Pathing. This is a systematic approach to career development, enabling employees to map multiple career path scenarios, review job competencies and evaluate skill gaps.

However, as a practical tool for everyday use, I would advocate the use of the Traffic Light Model. This stresses boundary definitions and reporting disciplines with the aim of maximising the Green go-ahead signal.

Retaining Future Leaders

I think we all understand that employee retention is about more than money.

Considering non-financial elements, Senior Management needs to have a strategy with multiple components.

Think about how effective your recruitment process is in attracting future leadership talent.

Consider these next steps after recruitment:

  • Give appropriate praise and feedback when leadership is demonstrated;
  • Try to give your fledgeling leaders the opportunity to lead projects with clear developmental elements;
  • Have an internal mentoring system that will let individuals know that the organisation wants to invest in them;
  • Promote from within wherever possible to provide a clear signal that there are continuing opportunities;
  • Encourage individuals to network internally beyond their immediate work group.

So your retention strategy can be multi-faceted.

If you do not already have such a strategy, then I would strongly recommend you review what might be appropriate for your organisation.

I think it is vital to engage with this issue; organisations are judged by the quality of their leadership and with good reason.

If we fail to develop leaders at all levels in our organisations, then we will not be change ready, and your workforce may not see you as an employer of choice.

About The Author | Peter Woodward

Peter Woodward worked for 27 years in the “high technology” industry, first with Texas Instruments and then Intel Corporation. After spending nine years in a wide range of manufacturing and production planning roles he moved into human resources. Peter’s roles at Intel included European Human Resource Director, and Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) Training Director. He played a key role in developing and delivering a range of advanced and sophisticated training programmes to more than 3500 Intel managers worldwide, with particular focus on the Pentium design, production teams and marketing teams. On leaving Intel, Peter moved into an independent consulting role and has undertaken a wide variety of briefs/projects including being a member of a “transfer of western management practices” consulting team for joint Chinese French (EDF) development of a Nuclear Energy Centre in Beijing; and was appointed as lead HR consultant during a major change initiative with the Abbey National International Bank. Peter’s expertise also includes using psychometric tools to advance leadership; 360 survey activities; employment and discrimination tribunals and systems for effective objective-setting. He also advises start-up technology companies with board-level experience.

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