Are You Ready to Overcome the Greatest Leadership Development Challenge?

By Mark Busine

We’re at a pivotal moment in the history of leadership and learning.

Across the board, macro trends are having a profound effect on the way leaders work, live, and learn. New technology, new perspectives on learning and performance, and new content challenges are rapidly changing the landscape for leadership development. And according to the 2018 Deloitte Human Capital Trends research, the transformation of learning and development is top of mind for HR Leaders and CEOs.

It’s fair to say we have seen more pedagogic change in the last 10 years then we have in the last 100. But this change hasn’t eliminated some of the most common leadership development challenges. Despite the promise of new technologies and increased investment in leadership development:

  • Leaders continue to feel unprepared for the challenges of their roles.
  • Organizations struggle to find and develop a healthy pipeline of leaders.
  • Leaders feel more overwhelmed, more confused, and more stressed about their roles.

So, what is getting in the way?

Time matters more than we realize.

According to research from multiple sources, the greatest of all leadership development challenges is time.

Time is an easy target. It can’t fight back or defend itself. In an increasingly complex, fast-paced, rapidly changing environment, time constantly works against us.

In fact, while time is an important leadership development challenge it’s also become something of an obsession. Everybody’s talking about it. And the Oxford English Dictionary says "time” is now the most commonly used noun in the English language. (“Year” and “day” are also in the top five.)

According to Simon Garfield, author of Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time, “Time, once passive, is now aggressive. It dominates our lives in ways that the earliest clockmakers would have surely found unbearable.”

And our fascination with time extends to other fields. In music, film, and literature we are constantly exploring the idea of beating time; going back in time, stopping time, or jumping to the future. In the world of science, each year more than 50 scientific papers are published on time travel.

When it comes to leadership development challenges, it’s not time itself that creates the problem but the feeling of time pressure. Time pressure is a form of psychological stress that occurs when we feel we have less time available (real or perceived) than is necessary to complete a task or obtain a result. This can lead us to limit our research, look for easy solutions, narrow our range of options, or focus on the things that are more immediate rather than those that might bring a longer-term benefit.

One key area where we often fall short is how we think of technology in leadership development. The appropriate use of technology has the potential to significantly enhance the learning and leadership development experience. But it may not always be the best option.

We should also not assume that certain groups, such as millennials, have a natural preference for technology driven learning. A report by McKinsey & Company found that “Millennials benefit from high-touch learning no less than workers from previous generations do. Younger employees may spend more time online and be more comfortable with mobile applications. But they should not be forced—and, in our experience, don’t desire—to engage solely with digital learning tools.”

Leadership development isn't about making everything fit in less time or waiting until there is a better time. It’s about making a more meaningful investment of the time we have.

To learn about the six pivotal “time-driven” L&D mistakes and how to maximize your leaders investments of time, check out my blog.

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