The Changing Face of Leadership

Leadership continues to be a major concern amongst business leaders around the world with over 89% believing it to be a priority in 2016.

The last decade has seen many industries enter a period of increasingly rapid change. According to Jeff Barnes Head of Global Leadership, General Electric “There are no boundaries anymore”.

With many organisations struggling to cope with the level of complexity and interconnectedness, we are seeing a shift from a structured hierarchy to a network of teams. The young and old working together is not only redefining leadership as a concept but is also putting the spotlight on what the future could bring. We explore, why leadership is still a major challenge facing businesses today and ask the question, are we ready for the next phase of leadership.  One thing is clear; leadership is still an important component of business success.

Why does leadership remain a challenge today? 

According to Institute of Management New Zealand chief executive Fiona Hewitt; the first challenge facing leadership is that the entire concept of leadership is being radically redefined. As we move to a team centric approach, we are seeing organisations move away from leadership defined by virtue of power or position and more towards leadership defined as a collective process spread through networks of people.

We no longer ask the question- who is our leader? but what conditions do we need for leaders at all ages to flourish in the network?  According to the Deloitte 2016 Human capital survey, the number of employees supervised by each first-line manager is increasing, to more than 10 among some companies. Consequently, as teams expand and the workforce becomes more diverse, a new leader emerges with different capabilities and skills.

The shift from a structured hierarchy to a network of teams’ means that there is a stronger demand for people who can lead at all levels of the company.

With 59 % of respondent reporting little to no investment in diverse leaders; companies need to identify potential leaders much earlier in their careers and accelerate their movement through the leadership ranks. Although in some companies, senior leaders are reluctant to yield up responsibility, it’s important to create a robust pipeline of new, more innovative leaders, especially if they can be the bridge the gap between new and older leaders.

The second challenge facing leadership today is that the skills needed for leadership have also changed. New leaders are not only skilled at inspiring team loyalty through their expertise, vision, and judgment but can also collaborate with other leaders to keep up with the pace change. More complex and adaptive thinking abilities are needed such as conceptual thinking and collaboration. To stay competitive, organization need to focus on a new leadership cohorts (Millennial, women, and diverse individuals). All of this requires implementing a comprehensive culture around leadership to address the leadership gap continuously and systemically.

Despite corporate leadership programme spending increasing by 10% last year, the quality and investments for leadership efforts remain uneven across companies. High-performing companies outspend their competitors on leadership by almost four times. Best-practice organizations are developing an integrated system of leadership that includes a specific leadership strategy, detailed pre- and post-program assessments to measure effectiveness.

The challenge ahead is that it’s no longer just a leadership challenge, it is a development challenge and the challenge of how we grow bigger minds. Managers have become experts on the what of leadership but are struggling to understand the how of their now development.

There needs to be more focus on all types of development, both vertically and horizontally. Although a lot of time has been spent on horizontal development (competencies) where development can be transferred from others; little has been spent on vertical development (stages).

It’s the use of vertical and horizontal leadership training that will help us grow our minds.

What should companies do to prepare for the future?

To prepare for the future, companies should look at investing in a comprehensive leadership system that can effectively train all levels of employees from young to more experience. It is important to focus training on high potential employees and providing emerging leaders the opportunity to develop both vertically and horizontally so that they can thrive in leadership roles.

In light of their new partnership, IMNZ and Massey Business School are now in a unique position to offer a range of business learning opportunities across the entire leadership development cycle – from students to post-graduates, to emerging leaders and senior managers.

Ms Hewitt says the full suite of options offered by IMNZ and the Massey Business School opens up management training and education opportunities for New Zealand businesses and professionals. “Our partnership will provide a pathway to lifelong learning – with training and leadership opportunities available at every stage of your career. Between our two organisations we can offer individuals a course that is relevant to their needs – and organisations looking for innovative solutions heavily focused on optimising business and management performance. What this means, is if you are looking for on the job training, a NZQA short course, a B Com, MBA or PhD we can help you “.

Our unparalleled access to the best of academic thinking and our legacy of helping leaders learn for 70 years makes for a very exciting time.


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