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7 leadership development trends for a stronger bottom line

Posted by Chad O'Connor  April 16, 2013 11:00 AM

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[Editor's Note: Technology Underwriting Greater Good (TUGG) is raising funds for programs assisting victims of the Boston Marathon attacks. Learn more and donate here.]

Business leaders looking for meaningful growth are all about investing in their people to cultivate an engaged workforce, and ultimately, achieve higher sales and a stronger bottom line. Here are seven trends we’re watching:

1. Uncertainty is the new normal. Organizations are launching more change initiatives than ever – as many as five per year, on average. However, the increased uncertainty among companies may be preventing these changes from sticking. Research has found that twice as many business leaders say “the ability to lead change” is a key challenge.

2. The management talent shortage is intensifying. For business leaders, the top concern during the next few years is the talent shortage. Don’t expect to be able to hire fully capable managers from outside. Instead, hire promising talent early and invest in their training and retention. Look for emerging leaders and, again, invest in them.

3. First-line leaders matter. First-line leaders make up 50-60 percent of management. They are the linchpin in strategy execution, customer satisfaction and employee engagement. They are the last stop for communicating strategy and enabling employee success. In order to keep up with competitors, invest at least one-third of your total leadership development budget in your first-line leaders. Your bottom line will thank you.

4. Organizations that focus on people-leadership practices will reap rewards. Research has shown that the ability to lead people effectively is about three times more important to a leader’s career success than other skills and knowledge. In fact, thinking like a leader, coaching your team, gaining results through others and engaging people are the four most critical people-leadership skills. Businesses must ensure that all leaders, and especially first-line leaders, are trained in these four critical practices.

5. Employee engagement will continue to be a key concern. Organizations with engaged workforces have significantly lower absenteeism, turnover and safety incidents, according to Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace,” while productivity and profitability are much higher. Having an engaged workforce is a huge market advantage. Leaders need to know the factors that contribute to their team’s engagement.

6. Leadership is becoming more collective. Leadership during the past 50 years has been about the individual. However, in the last 15 years, this model has become less effective and has transitioned to being more collaborative. Organizations must create multilevel leadership development systems and ensure steadiness between levels of consistent competencies, concepts, language and themes.

7. Boot-camp training is out. A recent survey of 700 leaders worldwide found that 91 percent of respondents feel they have too much work on their plate. Seventy-five percent said they have “little or no” capacity to “do more with less.” When it comes to education, it’s time to give learners a break – boot camp-style learning is out. Workers are tired and “pedal-to-the-metal” training will only make them more tired. Learning needs to be practical and challenging, but also include chances for team bonding and laughter, quiet time and reflection, free-wheeling discussions with colleagues and a bit of surprise and adventure.

If organizations can implement these trends into their initiatives, they’ll achieve an even more productive year.

Jocelyn Davis is executive vice president, Research and Development, of The Forum Corp., a Boston-based training and development organization.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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