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Leadership Development

A Discussion Paper

Context and Trends

In designing a leadership development program we must take account of the context and trends that leaders operate within. Several of the key trends to emerge during the late 1990s are described below.

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1. Globalisation

Globalisation presents leaders with many challenges:

  • greater competition in terms of standards, speed and costs, from organisations that operate on both a global and local levels
  • developing products and services that meet needs in a variety of markets
  • taking account of the legislation, values, ethics, politics and ways of doing business of each market
  • operating successfully in multiple and widely diverging cultures with different work and social ethics.

Organisations that address these challenges and become unquestioned leaders in their field are typically able to build dynamic and flexible organisations able to apply global strategies.

Leaders who respond effectively to globalisation have a global mindset and international networks and the capacity to transform and change themselves and their organisations as required. Their skills will typically include global mindset/awareness, cross cultural influencing and negotiation skills, change resilience and capability, broad scanning and conceptual thinking.

2. Technological Advancement

Information, materials, process and people based technologies are advancing at a rapid rate. The ability to apply appropriate technologies successful is a key capability for many leaders. Inherent in this is the leaders ability to pro-actively create change, at both a personal and business level, the ability to identify appropriate innovations and envisage the benefits they will provide the business and the skills to quickly integrate new technologies.

The typical skills such a leader has include technological understanding, organisational know-how, systemic thinking, option development and change resilience and capability.

3. People and Workplaces

Many changes are taking place in the workplace:

  • mix of permanent, contract, part-time and "outsourced staff"
  • staff based in many locations and cultures who need to juggle competing priorities for multiple masters
  • working in multiple teams with people who report to other managers
  • people maintaining a balanced life and reluctant to "marry the company"
  • people who have greater levels of education and expectations
  • reduced levels of loyalty, increased mobility and a greater focus on "what's in it for me" from staff.

Effective leaders in this environment have skills in people judgement, people development, cross cultural influencing and negotiating, emotional intelligence, gaining cooperation and commitment. They also have an understanding and ability to match their leadership style to the situation.

4. Stakeholders

One of the strongest trends influencing businesses is the role of stakeholders. The range of stakeholders is increasing, their agendas are more divergent, they are better informed, more demanding and willing to actively pursue their goals.

Investors
Investors, both corporate and private, are globally based, better informed, demand more, make quicker decisions and exercise their power more frequently.

Leaders need to be well informed and articulate to manage the investor relationship effectively.

Partnerships
Partnerships, including joint ventures, can be locally or globally based, may involve working with businesses that are also competitors, and often include business, semi-government and/or government organisations. Often the parties to these partnerships have divergent goals, ethics, cultures and ways of working.

Leaders in this environment need to have the ability to create and sustain these partnerships and have an understanding of the resources (time, money, people, energy) and commitment required to achieve long term success.

Suppliers
Increasingly global organisations are establishing global as well as local supplier relationships. This present leaders with several challenges such as ensuring global suppliers provide consistent service and quality products, and building successful relationships with one or more suppliers across multiple cultures.

New Businesses
Global businesses are acquiring and/or starting up new businesses in multiple locations. Establishing new businesses requires leaders who can identify opportunities, manage transitions and multiple environments/cultures and who can integrate the strengths of businesses, their people and products/services.

Wider Community
In western countries there is a trend towards greater scrutiny of the operation of businesses. Issues of sustainability, environmental impact, ethics, working conditions, inappropriate development and social responsibility draw the attention of communities, governments, pressure groups and the media. These groups of people can exercise considerable power in terms of political pressure, image, market impact and community acceptance.

Effective leaders understand the role of the wider community in the success of their company and are skilled at managing this area.

Leadership Implications
Managing the stakeholder trends requires a broad range of leadership skills including decision making, ethics and values, option development, organisation know-how, broad scanning, analytical thinking and decisive insight.

Move on to next section of this article Leadership.

 

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