Sampurna Maitra April 4 2023

Is your leadership framework obsolete?

Senior Consultant, Sampurna Maitra, identifies the top six tips for those looking to understand whether their current leadership framework is fit for purpose...

Flux. VUCA. Whatever the current buzzword of choice, one thing is for certain - change and ambiguity are the 'new normal'.

The pandemic has accelerated our movement towards permanent hybrid working and thrown into stark relief the need for a more balanced work-life that prioritises wellbeing - more than half of employees say flexible working policies influence their intention to stay with their employer.

Recent social justice and sustainability movements have created a sense of urgency around the perennial need for more inclusive and equitable workplaces that act responsibly and give employees a sense of purpose. A failure to promote D&I leading to a toxic work culture is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. Global geopolitical instability has shaken economies and necessitated an agile and empathetic approach to managing a volley of crises. 61% of 300 CHROs surveyed by KPMG said that they would need to alter their Employee Value Proposition in response to the changing labour market - an urgent strategic need given its shifting demographics; 72% of the global workforce will be comprised of Millennials and Gen Z by 2029. ChatGPT and other Artificial General Intelligence-powered tools, among other emerging technologies, have, in only a few short months, shown their potential to revolutionise how we work. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that up to 375 million workers may need to change their roles, upskill or reskill by 2030 in response to the impact of automation and AI.

We can all agree that a lot is being asked of the world of business right now - and by extension, of its leaders. Leaders can make or break an organisation - both culturally and commercially. This has always been true, however, what ‘good’ leadership looks like has changed dramatically over the last few years. As the nature of what we lead – workforces, workplaces, commercial strategies – changes at an exponential rate, it follows that how we lead needs to keep pace so organisations can remain competitive and effective.

For decades, great leaders have been defined by their competence in strategic thinking, decision-making, communication, commerciality and delivering results through hierarchies. These on their own no longer suffice. The time has come for the rise of the people-centric, situational leader driven by empathy and humility. Inspiring leaders that engage diverse hybrid teams in a fruitful collaboration. Adaptable and creative leaders who foster a psychologically safe environment in which people can work with agility, experiment and innovate. Transformational leaders help their people create meaning at work and connect them to the wider purpose of the organisation. Recognising this shift in what makes a great leader, many companies are grappling with reassessing and future-proofing their behavioural and leadership frameworks to ensure they are fit for purpose and reflective of these emerging realities.

There’s good news and bad news around this challenge. The bad news is that these shifting demands placed on leaders will continue coming thick and fast – quicker than many companies can equip their leaders to cope with them. Gartner’s recent survey revealed that almost a quarter of HR Leaders feel their leadership development approach fails to prepare leaders for the future of work. The good news is we’ve done the hard work of figuring out – through rigorous research and analysis – what the future of leadership looks like, and how to develop leaders who are prepared to operate in this new normal.

Here are our top six tips for those looking to understand whether their current leadership framework is fit for purpose:

1. Identify the purpose of your leadership framework – is your central focus identifying a pipeline of potential future leaders, developing the capabilities of existing leaders or something else?

2. Understand the business context – what are the key challenges, threats, and opportunities facing the organisation now and in the next 5 years? What do your leaders need to do and be to meet these head-on?

3. Validate the current framework(s) – most companies have an ecosystem of behavioural/ values/ways of working frameworks at different stages of maturity and being used for different purposes. Critically examine how predictive these are of potential and performance in your leaders. Think about the different sources of data you might use to validate their utility in making talent decisions and driving successful long-term talent development – performance and talent metrics and employee feedback are good starting points.

4. Look outside your organisation – there is a wealth of thought leadership and rigorously built frameworks in the market against which you can and should benchmark your own. This is an essential step to identifying gaps and opportunities in your framework.

5. Involve your people – usually efforts like this are HR-led but engaging the business – including front-line middle managers, emerging leaders and high potentials – in the process of critique and co-creation is absolutely essential in helping your end products land well.

6. Get the right resources and sponsorship – What is the burning platform that will get you leadership sponsorship, and wider business buy-in (and ultimately budget) for this project? This is a perfect case of you reap what you sow, so think about the positioning of the commercial imperative behind this activity; the impact that the right leaders can have on business outcomes.

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