I wrote a previous article related to leadership development that discussed why an effective leadership development program was much more than just about the content. While everything from that article still holds true, while re-reading it I realized that for the first time in a long time, even the content for developing leaders needs to be updated.
Why is this? Because the role of a leader has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic. Here are a variety of thoughts and facts supporting this:
- Leaders need to be more agile to support hybrid or fully remote workforces, where in the past they were in the same physical location as their teams.
- Leaders still need to build a team culture and trust/commitment, without having the same level of organic interactions and unplanned brainstorming as in the past, due to employees working remote.
- They need to anticipate issues with performance and team dynamics, without being able to physically observe behaviors and daily interactions.
- The way they hire and onboard team members has changed. Integrating new team members and overseeing 30-60-90 day onboarding plans can be much more challenging in hybrid or remote working environments.
- Related, leaders are tasked with managing a greater variety of worker types to hit goals and grow the business – those who are seasoned and have always worked onsite and thrive in that environment; those who traditionally worked onsite but now appreciate/desire the at-home working experience; and those who are newer to the workforce and have only ever experienced working remotely.
Leaders themselves are learning in a new environment. They aren’t able to learn by working alongside their upline when working remotely, and lack learning opportunities that would occur in person via organic conversations, brainstorming, and on-the-job observation.
In addition to the points above, leadership models themselves are changing. Structures are less traditional/ hierarchical and now represent a flatter/self-management design. As a result, all leaders – whether new or tenured; from supervisors to the c-suite – need to be able to think and act strategically, setting and executing goals and strategies while modeling ideal employee/cultural behavior in hybrid situations.
The result of all this change? The need for leadership development “2.0”.
At the beginning of the pandemic, existing leaders navigated the change together, adapting to the changing workforce dynamic. But what about transfer of this “on the job” learning and performance change to leaders who have been hired or promoted since? Where those leadership behavior changes documented and integrated into leadership training? In nearly all cases, the answer is “No.”
Traditional learning content needs to be adapted to include the realities of the new leadership environment. In the “2.0” model:
- The script needs to be flipped to make leaders more proactive in identifying issues and needs while operating in a hybrid model, versus training them to appropriately react to employee situations.
- Learning needs to be ongoing versus a series of training events. 2.0 needs to focus on ongoing support and evolving applications of core skills. Formal and informal touch bases are needed beyond the training “events,” alongside access to peers and mentors for ongoing feedback and support.
- The environment needs to help leaders who don’t have a lot of “face time” with their upline be able to self-promote and share interpersonal and team leadership wins in transparent, timely methods… to ensure senior leader perspective of success isn’t only metric-driven.
- Core historical content needs to be adapted and taught in the proper context – providing learning across a variety of hybrid situations in order to build skills and knowledge in an agile and adaptive manner
- And logistically, 2.0 needs to leverage more technology to mimic the hybrid “real world,” with the ability to scale the pace up or down based on business and situational needs while remaining easily accessible for remote leaders, so they can access leadership content regardless of location and at the time of need.
Developing leaders who are better equipped for today’s environment… and tomorrow’s unknowns
In summary, leaders coming out of a “2.0” development program will be more adaptable, nimble, and proactive than leaders coming out of traditional training. This is important as we expect them to lead and manage in a different, quickly evolving work environment.
The “great resignation” occurred due to the pandemic, and workers will continue to defect into 2023 and beyond. But you have some control over this! Build a 2.0 leadership team capable of operating and adapting to the current hybrid work environment and the unique needs and wants of employees in a post-pandemic world. In turn, these leaders will build greater employee trust and commitment, strengthening your desired culture and helping the business reach its goals – all while holding onto your current workforce and attracting new talent!
If you’d like to learn more about how we’ve helped clients adapt historical leadership programs and build new “2.0” development experiences, please contact me. And please share your personal leadership development successes, struggles, and questions in the comments below!