Effective pathways to leadership capability

Effective pathways to leadership capability

You need to change how you develop your leadership skills for 2022

Education and leadership are two topics that greatly interest me. Heavily disrupted, these two fields now at unique, separate, yet linked crossroads.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with senior leaders and educators from leading universities in Thailand and top-ranked business schools abroad, such as The Stephen M Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. What is becoming more evident is that new world challenges need new solutions.

Students of leadership need changes in content, experience and formats. If you are a leader learner, you need to carefully evaluate the opportunities available and ensure your investment in time and resources will deliver the results you need.

You need to ensure you are paying for results rather than research or reputation. It is important to remember both what and how leaders and executives need to learn were transformed by the pandemic.

To understand the change, look at what being a leader or an executive involved before the pandemic. Now, look at the current demands on leaders. As a leader, you now often need to achieve multiple different outcomes simultaneously. You need to produce results, but you also need to build new future organisational capabilities simultaneously.

You have to consider a more diverse stakeholder group and be more experimental and driven by facts and data. As a leader, you need to do all this while simultaneously leading a demoralised workforce critically short of talent.

It has been a long time since I was in university studying business or a two-day course, but most of the above certainly was not on the curriculum.

Of course, no single programme can address all these challenges, but programmes or schools that stick to the tried and tested subjects will not meet your needs with their traditional offerings. Organisations today cannot accept traditional leadership development offerings that produce the same old outcomes.

As a leader, your team or workforce today needs leaders who can lead through ambiguity and complexity, with speed, and remotely if needed. Critically, they need to be people their teams can trust. It is also not surprising that the leadership and executive education you choose needs to provide an experience that matches your preferences and gives you these capabilities.

Most institutes will have to allow for the fact that online/virtual approaches are here to stay. During the pandemic, executives experienced what was possible, and gathering big groups together was no longer desirable or feasible. As a leader, you are just too busy.

Similarly, the duration and organisation of executive education will not go back to the old ways. You cannot afford to take two weeks away from the business. Learning will need to take place over a longer period with opportunities to use what you learn built in.

Executive and leadership learners have always learned in groups, but rarely as a group. I believe this is the way forward. Institutes will need to design for cross-organisational learning and simultaneously offer learning that can be self-initiated. Learning must be designed to develop new capabilities rather than individual skill sets and mindsets. New outcomes and the ability to do new things are everything.

I also believe that younger executives don’t learn in the way older leaders do. They are not interested in the same methods. These methods will not engage them and produce the desired outcomes. Academics and programme designers will face many more critical design decisions in developing offerings that will benefit businesses.

Programmes will need to produce graduates who can answer the new organisational needs because they are creativity-driven to build and experiment with new ways and approaches based on what they learn. They will need to create data users who understand the current big picture and what is going on.

Institutes should offer programmes that develop capabilities to look outside the organisation to identify opportunities, understand new possibilities, and approach creating them in new ways.

If you are evaluating programmes, you need to assess yourself honestly against the above requirements. My advice is to evaluate how well the programmes available will move you in the desired direction and how the programme will create future capability-building opportunities for you in the business. Moreover, programmes must be designed and evaluated on how well they help you relearn and replace obsolete approaches.

Some schools and learners will still take the two-week, on-campus path to leadership development, but I believe they can’t fight the future.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Talk to us about how SEAC can help your business during times of uncertainty at https://forms.gle/wf8upGdmwprxC6Ey9


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