With the start of another year comes our annual analysis of leadership development trends. This year, we will share a bit of the what – hot topics in leadership development – in addition to a look at the how – how designers are developing, and learners are consuming, leadership development content. We’ll also share some underpinning skills and best practices for each topic.
Let’s begin with the whats of leadership development in 2023: what are the most in-demand topics we’re seeing?
Whether due to the proliferation of new teams, revised organizational structures, or the desire to maximize each employee’s contribution, many clients are seeking training on the topic of empowerment. The typical ask sounds something like this: “How can we get our people to take ownership of projects and decisions? We don’t have the time or ability to have them sit back and wait for direction.” Effectively addressing empowerment can result in increased satisfaction, contribution, and clarity amongst leaders and their people.
Key Elements of Empowerment:
- Giving employees authority to make decisions.
- Enabling and supporting employees in their work tasks.
- Providing the information and resources employees need to complete work tasks.
- Creating the conditions for employees to optimize their contribution and take pride and ownership in that contribution.
Underpinning Skills for Empowerment:
Best Practices in Training for Empowerment:
- Connecting empowerment to organizational expectations (risk-taking, innovation).
- Opening dialogue between employees and their leaders to establish ways of working, roles, and expectations.
An eye on results and follow-through make accountability another hot topic for leadership development in 2023. This has become particularly complex in the age of remote and hybrid work, where intentional focus on roles, goals, and collaboration are essential. Here, the pain point usually sounds something like, “We aren’t making much progress on initiatives. Especially when everyone has so much on their plates, how can we actually get things done?” These struggles could be due to a variety of factors – lack of role clarity or empowerment (see above), team staffing and structure, or even an organizational culture that may discourage constructive feedback, thus impeding progress towards results. For leaders of projects and people, accountability is twofold – accountability first with oneself, and then for the work done by and through others.
Key Elements of Accountability:
- Responsibility – a mindset and mental attitude of ownership.
- Empowerment – taking personal action to produce results.
- Resourcefulness – finding avenues to achieve results and overcome barriers.
- Commitment – standing by the results of actions – after the fact – for better or worse.
Underpinning Skills for Accountability:
- Role and Goal Clarity.
Best Practices in Training for Accountability:
- Start by defining what accountability means to each individual and to the organization. Try to debunk negative connotations associated with the term, which may be rooted in past experiences.
- Embed accountability measures into the training itself as well as the post-training – make learners “walk the talk” right away!
Career development is an especially hot topic right now, due in large part to the recalibration of work and life brought on by the pandemic and the reshuffling of individuals and teams caused by the Great Resignation. Although it’s true that much of what’s done in leadership and talent development contributes to the development of one’s career, the explicit and intentional planning and time/space given to this topic as its own separate moment is key in bringing maximum value to the individual and the organization.
- Underpinning Skills for Career Development:
- Connection (to both opportunities and people).
Best Practices in Training for Career Development:
- Couple career development with assessments to increase self-awareness and individualize and contextualize the experience for each learner.
- Train both managers and their people for two reasons:
- Managers need career development too!
- Equipping both audiences helps create a common language and sets the stage for optimizing understanding and support.
In addition to the list above, there are overarching best practices for each of these topics. Effectively addressing empowerment, accountability, and career requires shifts to both mindset and skillset, which are critical to highlight in the learning experience. Like most of our leadership development efforts, allowing learners to put the learning into the context of their own reality is a best practice for making the learning relevant and sustainable.
Now that we’ve broken down a bit of the what, let’s examine the hows of leadership development in 2023 – in other words, how are learning experiences being designed and consumed?
Blended leadership development means something different in 2023 than it did just a few years ago, mainly due to the emergence of new technologies which have allowed for fresh combinations of multi-modal learning. We are now working with clients to combine digital asynchronous experiences with live events like webinars and vILTs, as well as immersive experiences such as VR. Although these combinations can create some complexities with scalability, they have great impacts in terms of learning retention, application, and community building.
This leads to the second how.
Connection is another key piece of learning in 2023, and a key driver of the desire to blend modalities as seen above. It’s true that designing for connection can be challenging, particularly with large learner populations. The key for talent development is striking a balance between the technology that allows leadership development to be individualized, scalable, and accessible to all with the need for context and human connection. Done right, this produces benefits that last far beyond the training efforts.
Now more than ever, businesses are realizing the role of effective leadership development in achieving strategic objectives. This could look like utilizing engagement survey data, HRBPs, or employee focus groups to determine needs and learner personas, in addition to aligning training efforts to competencies, core values, and organizational goals and objectives. This is not new to many organizations and training professionals but is becoming much more prevalent and front and center with many of our client organizations.
By no means are these lists exhaustive, as each organization is unique in its approach to leadership development, its corporate identity, and its goals and objectives. We want to know: When it comes to leadership development, what’s hot on your “what” and “how” lists?