Integrating Leadership and Career Development Goals With Overall Long-term Growth Strategies

One of an organization's most valuable assets is its human capital, and any leader who is not integrating talent development with the company’s growth strategy needs to sit down and ask him or herself: Why?

The businesses which best weathered the economic downturn were those with strong leadership at the helm, but although the recovery is on its way the challenges are not yet over.

"Shifting trends indicate that the next generation of leaders will need to be adept conceptual and strategic thinkers, have deep integrity and intellectual openness, and find new ways to create loyalty among employees," Georg Vielmetter, regional director of leadership and talent, Europe at Hay Group, explained.

Planning for the Leaders of the Future

Succession planning is regularly named as a key concern for businesses, which is more than understandable when you consider the relationship between leadership buy in and company growth.

But integrating leadership and career development with long-term growth strategies must go beyond selecting the leaders of the future and priming them for their future position.

Indeed, for any strategy to reach its greatest level of potential, all employees must buy in.

Ashley Ward, director at European Leaders, a people development specialist, explained: "For so little investment, you get the biggest bang for the buck that you can out of improving the performance of your workforce.

"The work that we're engaged in is essentially getting traction from every member of the team from the top down, ensuring that they know what their part is and what they've got to achieve as a part of the bigger picture."

Businesses are also looking to increasingly foster a culture of innovation among employees, which not only translates well with regard to a long-term growth strategy, but also boosts employee engagement, bringing with it all the associated benefits.

"With the exceptional ones, senior management and leadership are getting involved at an earlier stage as well. You get this sense of champions within the business, with people being recognised very quickly by people who probably sit quite far away from them," Alex Evans, editorial director and co-chair of the Orange National Business Awards, explained.

Developing Leadership Skills

For all the potential strong leadership holds, current leaders remain unconvinced as to the effectiveness of the development exercises they currently participate in.

DDI's Global Leadership Forecast revealed just four in ten leaders believed their development is effective, and just 18 percent think their organization has the future leadership strength it needs to meet business challenges.

Meanwhile, being able to identify future talent and foster creativity and innovation have emerged among the most important skills leaders will require in the future.

However, Steve Newhall, managing director at DDI UK, said the picture is perhaps not as bleak as it may first seem.

"Organizations have bought into the fact that they need to develop leaders and it’s indisputable that leadership does matter. Leaders are telling us the skills they need and they are clear on what development methods are effective.

"Put all of those elements together and, if we put our minds to it, we should be able to bring about a step change in leadership through effective, targeted development programs," he explained.

Those which achieve the greatest success in the area were found to use a wide variety of techniques. Indeed, the most successful employed 32 percent more methods than others.

Formal classroom training was identified as the most effective by 73 percent of leaders, while special projects and assignments garnered 66 percent of the vote, followed by the use of coaching techniques.

But while the methods used to develop leaders may differ, the need to carry out the task remains constant.

"Given the higher external failure rates of leaders and the significant costs associated with external hires, effective succession, or ‘grow-your-own’ tactics, will be an increasingly important talent strategy," Vanessa Robinson, head of HR practice development at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, concluded.