Leadership development strategy, completely depends on the current business environment, where change is permanent, and demands are prolific. It should completely align knowing-doing-gap.

Overall Indian picture looks very bright. As per World back, we would be one of the powerhouses by 2025. We would have one of the youngest workforce in a decade or so. Don’t smile. This is just positive demographics for you, nothing more. The other side of the coin is that, 75 per cent of current leaders would retire in a decade, and the importance of passing the baton which is difficult, becomes more crucial. 9 per cent engagement score in the country make it really interesting. Have you ever thought, with this engagement score, and youngest workforce, what would be our future?

While writing the book, ‘Match the Age’ to ‘Keep them Engaged’, I have realised that we are challenged in terms our planning, and would be further challenged in years to come. You would be thinking that why I am saying so? Look at this, ladies and gentlemen. Our leaders feel talent management, engagement, and retention is one of the top 5 needs in the organisational level to succeed. On the other hand, we have approximately 65 per cent companies, without human resources plan and close to 50 per cent organisations without even a talent management plan in place. It is shocking, yet alarming.

To solve this puzzle, first let’s ask ourselves, some very tough questions. I have listed down 10 top tough questions for entrepreneurial leaders, and you may like to put an answer to each one of them, before we move ahead: –

  1. What is the literal meaning of leadership to you and your organisation?
  2. Who is your ‘ideal employee’? How do you define it? Is there an age-group associated in relation to the ‘ideal employee’?
  3. What is your big picture for your leadership teams wants to achieve?
  4. What according to you would be the key drivers for future leadership?
  5. How do you plan to be effective leadership team?
  6. How do we build present and future capabilities, and build gaps?
  7. How do we build our future leaders?
  8. How do we build our talent management design based on the inputs from questions mentioned above?
  1. What are our priorities?
  2. How do we plan to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of this plan?

Let’s also list down the three major challenges in black and white: –

  1. The existing workforce is ageing.
  2. We will have one of the youngest workforce.
  3. No concrete plans for leadership development, talent engagement and management.

Let’s note the quick low hanging fruits at an organisational level:

  1. 25 per cent of organisations have a succession planning, can be improved easily.
  2. Learning interventions need to be efficient and need to measure on every return of investments

Some complex challenges can be:-

  1. Building a culture at an organisational level.
  2. 1 out of every 3 engaged Indian worker is looking for a change. For disengage one, it should close to 100 per cent.
  3. Only 9 per cent fully engaged workforce in the country. Though World average is equally bad at close to 13 per cent

Taking a clue from the above, I am sure by now you would have by now, in consultation with your teams answered the top ten listed questions. We should have also answered our end goal, or the result we are looking at. How do we define our ideal employee and leadership would definitely define our final outcome? It needs to have the vision component, future plans, and ability to motivate.

People leaders would also agree with me when I say, that we need to move away from one to many, towards individualist approach in every human resource intervention. Be it training, engagement, talent management, compensation, or any other intervention in human resources.

I urge you all to look at knowing, doing and, being concept by Nitin and Rakesh’s, in their handbook of leadership theory and practice, HBS Publishing.

At organisational level we need to answer, who we are, what do we need to do and, are we equipped for it? Leaders who can effectively navigate complex, challenging, and changing situations, can get the job done.

Leaders identify the following very important skills and perspectives, and need to be worked on in Indian context: –

  1. Work and life balance, especially in 24X7 atmosphere. Also keeping in mind the expected Gen Y workforce explosion, finding solutions for your teams work and life balance, becomes a very important part of continuous success in long term.
  2. Speed of learning and adaptability.
  3. Relationship bridging and building.
  4. Showing understanding of human needs.
  5. Resolute while dealing with problems.
  6. Doing or acting, rather than thinking style of leadership.
  7. Working in adverse circumstances.
  8. People leading.
  9. Tactical, strategic design.
  1. Exciting teams for long term and continuous assurance.
  2. Handling transformation.
  3. Managing own career.
  4. Strategic planning.
  5. Doing whatever it takes to be successful.

Leaders think about effective leadership, regardless of the country they are in or industry, or organisational level. Top seven competencies which are identified most crucial for success, are listed below.

The leadership skills which can be easily listed for future and current are following: –

  1. People leading.
  2. Tactical, strategic design.
  3. Exciting teams for long term and continuous assurance.
  4. Handling transformation.
  5. Employee development.
  6. Work and life balance.
  7. Decision making.

Today’s leadership capabilities are definitely insufficient for the future. The four weakest link in Indian leadership are: people leading, tactical, strategic design, and exciting teams for long term and continuous assurance, and handling transformation. Other gap arises between the existing skill levels in terms of development of teams, work and life balance and handling of the same in 24X7 work atmosphere, and decision making ability.

To increase leadership capacity, organisation will need to take both a strategic and a tactical approach. On the individual level, people managers will want to align the development experiences. Let’s look at our action plan for the top seven competencies found to have the largest future leadership gap:

  1. People leading
  • Communicate specific behaviours and skills that are related to managing others well. Ensure that your people managers understand them and their context.
  • Use consistent assessment practices like 360 degrees or assessment tool to assess them. Detailing would help.
  • Create training programs and developmental assignments.
  • Internal group to share experiences. Lessons and best practices relate to handling teams.
  • Feedback-rich environment would be important. Mentoring programs, training, and give feedback effectively.
  1. Tactical, strategic design
  • Top management should share the strategy.
  • Arrange for strategic development, change management, and risk management trainings
  • Involve cross cultural, cross departmental, and young team members.
  • Job rotations also help.
  • Provide mentoring support post training session.
  1. Exciting teams for long term and continuous assurance
  • Clarify the vision. Describe it’s connect with roles and employees individually, and align responsibility to each individual by contribution matrix.
  • Help managers effectively and consistently communicate the clear direction.
  • Encourage teams to have higher standards of performance and interpersonal competence.
  • Reinforce success.
  • Recognise the members or managers publically.
  1. Handling transformation
  • Offer change management classes, discussions, etc
  • Managers can improve each other’s and team’s decision making abilities.
  • Space or forum to share best practices.
  • Except resistance. Help people managers deal with it.
  1. Employee development
  • Discuss career goals, progress, on frequent basis. Try a monthly job chat.
  • Succession planning for top 10 per cent critical positions
  1. Work and life balance, especially in 24X7 atmosphere
  • Build awareness of time management, personal styles, and behaviours.
  • Teach how and when to say no.
  • Teach organisation skills and delegation.
  • Empower talent.
  • Stress reduction, yoga, meditation, etc. programs help.
  • Consider on-site day care, gym, concierge, etc. depending on your ideal employee.
  • Flexi timing, communication, etc. can also manage time.
  • Procrastination should be discouraged.
  • Very important is to look at in 24X7 service atmosphere.
  1. Decision making
  • Priorities developed for all people managers.
  • Information to be gathered by all entrepreneurial leaders while making decisions.
  • Calculate risks.
  • Discourage fear of failure.
  • Clarify empowerment and responsibilities.

The five steps which I feel can take to help us bridge this gap between current and future leadership skills.

  1. Needs identification: Identify the capabilities we need now, and in future to execute, to make an organisational level strategy.
  2. Create a leadership strategy: Development initiatives can be aligned with operational needs.
  3. Develop clear, specific goals, and strategies for individuals: Based on entrepreneurial leader’s strengths and weaknesses; assessment tools, give them feet forward, and coaching.
  4. Create a system: Excel at recruitment, identifying and developing talent, performance management, and retention.
  5. Evaluate: Measure the return of investment and present it. Assess the matrices which move.

Taking it forward, if your organisation starts to plan, and develop a leadership development program, please answer the basic questions, before you move ahead:

  1. How does the program links to organisational goals, strategies, and objectives?
  2. How do you define leadership and its development?
  3. What are the competencies you wish to develop?
  4. What are the sources of learning you wish to use?

The sources are abundant, but choose the best depending on the vision of your leaders. It can be any of the following:

  • Outdoor management.
  • 360 degrees.
  • Just in time training.
  • Individual development plans.
  • Job assessments.
  • Job rotation.
  • Action or class room based learning or e-learning.
  • Executive or performance coaching.

Each learning source differs in difficulty to impact, administer, cost, return of investment, and effectiveness. A combination approach works best. You can also link performance management system to leadership development and not solely business goals. Many more innovative things can be done. All the best.