Are you experiencing dissatisfaction with your leadership pipeline by Geoff Cox

This past summer I came across a great article by Josh Bersin entitled “Why Leadership Development feels broken and how we’re fixing it

Bersin considers the way that traditional hierarchies are disappearing from organisations, and suggests that the models of leadership that we have need to catch up with this trend. Not an original idea, but one which merits some consideration given the ‘lag’ that tends to exist between an organisation recognising the need for a particular type of leadership and being able to develop the corresponding quantity and quality of leaders.

Bersin suggests that the leadership model we need will prepare leaders for:

  • leading in a network,
  • driving results through influence,
  • building an inclusive team,
  • staying close to customers in an environment with constant change and interruption.

He goes on to the main thesis of his article which is about how we develop leaders into this role:

“We also have to understand that the model of “getting people ready for leadership” is also an old idea. Leadership, like HR, is a “craft” not a “profession.” In other words, you learn it by doing it, through coaching and apprenticeship, and by learning and reflecting on your mistakes.”

When I read this, I read it through the eyes of a strong proponent of experiential learning: it’s probably the point where Bersin and I will start to diverge. I’m in total agreement up until this point, but I’d always suggest that “on the job” experiential learning is potentially a lot more expensive than experiential learning that happens in structured learning environments. Make a mistake in the modern workplace with its reduced capacity for supervision and the consequences could be both messy and public, make a mistake during a business game or simulation and it’s simply what people expect.

So, taking the demands of the contemporary organisation as listed by Bersin above, what would I recommend as components of a leadership development learning environment?

Leading in a network is central to the learning outcomes from Matrix and Simbols

Both exercises demand the skills and mental frameworks that are required to operate effectively in networked organisations. Matrix also explores the balance between individual and corporate targets.

Driving results through influence, here I’d have a lot of confidence in deploying Minefield and T-trade. In these activities power is dispersed, rather than concentrated as in many traditional leadership development activities, and, as such, is a far better representation of power dynamics in most modern organisations. Results come through the effective use of influence rather than positional power.

Building an inclusive team is an easy one with the RSVP Design portfolio of tools. My selections would be:

Colourblind® is a great way to develop an appreciation that effective teamwork hinges on the ability to create shared language, and then highlights how this common language is developed and maintained.

Webmaster is all about individual contribution, and how teams need to be led in a way that facilitates a sense that each team member feels empowered to bring their best-game.

Staying close to customers in an environment with constant change and interruption. Again these are learning areas against which RSVP Design has designed solutions.

The “Working with a Customer Focus” Workshop features a whole range of activities that explore the demands of being a competitive organisation without losing an obvious customer focus.

Chainlink envisages the (familiar?) situation where every participant is both a customer and a supplier and develops the skills needed to be simultaneously effective in both roles.

Geoff Cox

Design Director