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ATD Blog

3 Ways to Accelerate Leadership Development

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The world has increased in volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA+) and continues to do so. According to Harvard Business Review, the World Uncertainty Index “has been consistently rising since 2016” and has more than doubled since 2000. To survive the headwinds of constant change, organizations must equip themselves with leaders who proactively anticipate, respond to, and manage uncertainty. Dynamic leaders—those able to apply different skills, recognize patterns, be flexible, and self-manage as needed—fill that role but are in short supply.

In the last century, organizations could afford to spend 20 years or more on developing leaders. The global, economic, and workforce environments were far more predictable than today’s volatile and complex world, so the demand for and the expectations of leaders were far less. For example, organizations allowed development to occur naturally throughout a leader’s lifecycle because tenures typically lasted for most of their career. According to KornFerry, the average tenure of C-suite leadership today is less than five years. To succeed today and into the future, companies must put their foot on the gas pedal when developing dynamic leaders.

Here are three ways to accelerate leadership development:

1. Provide leadership development earlier.

Almost half of new managers underperform within the first 18 months of assuming leadership. Likely, this is related to the fact that most organizations wait until well after a leader has been promoted to receive development opportunities.

By providing leadership development early on in a high-potential employee’s career, organizations can smooth the transition from individual contributor to leader. Through leadership development, first-time managers build foundational capabilities that enable them to move beyond the mindsets of individual contributors and more readily into those required for leading others. Easing the transformation empowers new managers to succeed from the start.


2. Integrate multiple development strategies.

Relying on horizontal development or traditional training alone risks developing within the wrong areas. According to McKinsey and Company, the most needed capabilities today are self-awareness and self-management, yet adult learning courses devoted to these are “20 times less common than those to develop communication.” Rather, organizations must seek strategies that enable horizontal and vertical developmen t. Horizontal development focuses on skill-building, while vertical development expands a leader’s ability to apply skills and capabilities contextually, depending on the situation.

Vertical development can be achieved through leadership coaching, group coaching, mentoring, or sponsorships. Interweaving several of these strategies together accelerates leadership development, reducing the time leaders can build and expand their capacity.


3. Expand leadership development to more employees.

Limiting development to a small subset within your organization can leave your leadership pipeline vulnerable. If an organization chooses to invest in only a few high-potential employees, it risks that investment walking away as the tenure for the average worker is only three to four years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Likewise, narrowing development opportunities risks excluding potential leaders from traditionally marginalized groups.

To ensure investment in leadership development is wisely spent, organizations must provide opportunities for development to more employees. In the past, the cost of expanding leadership development was unthinkable for most organizations. However, today’s technology offers affordable options for scaling leadership development.

Virtual coaching has proven to be as effective as face-to-face and can significantly reduce the cost of development—by as much as 50 percent. Plus, coaching management systems, like Sounding Board’s software, can help reduce the administrative time and resources needed to manage and track development programs across the organization.

The rate of change has already outpaced most organizations’ ability to respond and adapt. Companies can no longer afford to develop leaders one at a time over multiple decades. To succeed, businesses must accelerate the development of dynamic leaders by providing development earlier to a greater number of potential leaders through multiple approaches.

About the Author

Mary Carder is a content writer for Sounding Board, a dynamic leader development suite that combines award-winning technology and people-to-people development to help organizations bridge their leadership gaps..

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Thank you so much Sir, Very nice speech on Leadership. My life is starting to change from the time I started listening and practicing the habits which you are sharing with us.I've joined and aim to develop my leadership abilities.
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