In a time of disruption and continuous change, it’s vital to equip existing and future leaders with skills, thought processes and techniques to ensure that the organisation not only survives but thrives.
But, it’s easy to forget that leadership development is a relatively new concept in humanity’s evolution. And, unfortunately, many companies who used to invest in their emerging talent don’t anymore.
And according to Julie Birtles, the founder of BEyond Excellence and co-founder of the First100, it’s become more frequent that leaders, who are coming through the ranks, aren’t getting the foundational skills that they require to move into more complex roles.
In the latest episode of the HR Think Tank, we chat with Julie on what our future leaders need to help them unleash their potential.
Why Aren’t There More Great Leaders?
According to Julie, the first main problem stems from the fact that our method to develop leaders hasn’t changed over the past 30 years. Unfortunately, that method is not developing the capabilities that leaders need to navigate the times we are currently in.
“The great majority is striving to do their very best, but they’re not equipped with the ways of thinking and tools they need to lead through the gross uncertainty and disruption that shapes society now.”
So, the problem is centred on the specific individuals, but rather the fact they just have not been trained properly.
What Does Leadership Development Look Like Today?
The conventional approach to leadership development is largely focused on teaching future leaders about:
- competency skills,
- development skills,
- capabilities, and
But according to Julie, that can only take leaders so far. Instead, we should be focusing on expanding our leaders’ worldview so that they can make sense of the vast amounts of information out there and translate that into a form they can use in our fast-paced, complex reality.
Unfortunately, the conventional approach to leadership development is too linear and doesn’t account for more dynamic experiential programs that stretch people beyond their current perspectives and assumptions.
If our leaders can’t open themselves up to different ways of taking in information and making sense of the world, they can’t unlock value.
Julie’s First100 programme focuses on developing leaders to unlock this value by creating stretched experiences that pull people beyond their current way of thinking. She says, “it’s almost like learning new languages. So, once they hear it and it opens their mind to another possibility, it opens them to curiosity and to seeing and hearing different perspectives they couldn’t see before.”
How Do Leaders Develop Expansive Capacity for Future & Current Challenges?
Julie places significant emphasis on placing yourself in “stretched experiences” that challenges your frame of reference. It’s also important to check the diversity question of your network. If you are surrounded by people who look and sound like you, you will probably not get challenged in the right way.
She shares the success story of one of her clients and explains how they created “tight and demanding projects with super-tight timeframes to deliver real value to the board. And through that force, they were able to think more openly. And once you do that, it’s like learning another language. You don’t unsee it; you don’t unhear it.”
So, you need to get out of your comfort zone and build some comfort with being uncomfortable.
“Some of the most courageous leaders I’ve worked with through the years, stretch their people to the point, not to breaking point, but beyond the place they were ready to go to. And the people were amazing.”
In our latest episode of the HR Think Tank, Khai and Julie tackle the importance of developing leaders to be able to shape a future-ready workforce.
Julie shares why it’s important to be curious, check your assumptions and expand your network’s diversity. Khai shares some valuable insights into how psychometric assessments have actually helped leaders on his team develop from a professional and personal perspective.
If organisations embrace a different way of developing leaders and focus on reshaping their worldview, the most unexpected people hop out with the motivation, ambition, hungriness and grittiness that we need right now to lead.
Make sure to tune into HR Think Tank Episode 9 with Julie Birtles, where we learn the best ways to identify and nurture leaders within your orbit.