Leadership must adapt to changes

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Interview | Andrew Warren Smith, managing director, DDI India

Set up in 1970, Development Dimensions International (DDI) has helped many Fortune 500 companies reshape their future. It helps organisations close the gap between present talent capability and future needs.

Creating leadership pipe-line is critical for organisations and is also a challenging task. How should Indian firms go about it?

We recommend five best practices to get organisations started on the leadership pipeline journey and address their future business needs.

1. Start with the end in mind: The starting point in developing a healthy pipe­line of leaders begins in the future. Indian firms with a clear understanding of business and cultural priorities are in a much stron­ger position to build the right quantity and quality of leaders. The environment in which Indian firms operate must also be factored into pipe­line decisions. Rapid grow­th, frequent change, uncertainty and focus on global expansion are just a few of the themes that define the market in which Indian firms find themselves today.

2. Define leaders who fit the profile for success: No matter what direction and path Indian firms choose, success will depend on their ability to execute these priorities. Once the business drivers have been identified, firms must define what success looks like at each level of leadership across the business. A leader’s success depends on a combination of experiences, organisational knowledge, competencies and personal attributes.

3. Prepare leaders for critical transitions: Great organisations develop leaders before they make transitions into new roles or higher levels. This development and support is focused very much on what success looks like at the next level.

4. Create leadership acceleration pools: Careful identification and accelerated development of high-potential future leaders can help close the leadership gaps that often exist in the fast growing or changing Indian market place. Starting with a clear and consistent definition of the leadership potential helps in kicking off this process.

5. Choose the right leaders to move up the leadership pipeline: Promotion decisions should be based on actual readiness to advance. Leading Indian firms are investing more time and effort to assess readiness and make more accurate placement and promotion decisions, based on leader’s strengths and development areas ma­p­ped to the firm’s priorities.

How can HR increase its participation in building a strong leadership pipeline?

A leadership pipeline approach is unlikely to succeed without the support of key stakeholders, particularly the senior leadership team or board. HR leaders must be able to present the business case for a leadership pipeline and portray this in clear business value terms, demonstrating just how this approach will help deliver on future priorities.

Other critical elements are factors like comprehensive communication and promotional plans; building the skills and capabilities within the business to manage the pipeline; establishing and aligning systems and processes including setting up talent review boards and reviewing performance management, compensation, recognition and rewards systems and setting in place clear lead and lag measures to measurable progress and impact.

A recent DDI report says leaders are not ready to face the new-age challenges. What are some of these challenges?

According to the conference board’s 2014 CEO challenge findings, CEO’s rated human capital, customer relationships, innovation, operational excellence and corporate brand and reputation as top five challenges.

When leaders participating in the DDI’s 2014 global leadership forecast study were asked to rate their readiness to execute these challenges, less than 50 per cent felt ready to do so. Better leadership is one specific investment that can have a positive impact on CEO’s challenges. For instance all leaders can learn to bring in the voice of customer into their organisation, become talent scouts, create environment where innovation flourishes and where align­ment of systems and pro­ce­sses enhance the execution of organisational priorities.

HR’s role in this is to anticipate the organisational leadership needs based on the changing landscape and prepare leaders ahead of time and across levels.

What does the report refer to when it says India has not seen any significant progre­ss in leadership quality and bench strength?

Indian leaders surveyed in 2014 felt slightly more confident (54 per cent) in the quality of their own leaders than in 2011 (51 per cent). But when Indian HR leaders were asked the same question, less than 40 per cent rated their leadership quality as high. Similarly less than 50 per cent of Indian leaders felt they had a ready bench of leaders to fill critical roles. Leadership must adapt to changing external and internal contexts. Firms (and leadership approaches) that don’t anticipate and adjust to changing contexts fall behind over the time.

What practices can Indian firms emulate from the West for leadership develo­p­ment and trai­n­ing?

Indian firms should connect leadership development to business priorities, role and individual motivations; position leadership development as an integrated journey rather than an independent series of events; hold leaders accountable for behaviour change in their teams; and ensure stakeholder buy-in and involvement.

India Inc believes higher percentage of women in leadership roles will be a game changer in 2014-15...

The work environment has changed significantly in recent decades. Changes are occurring in working ages, gender and education levels and the profile of workforce. People today have more access to diverse choice of career and skill improvement.

Organisations are also more mindful of creating friendly working environments. All these changes are positively impacting the types of roles and choices available to women. This has demanded that participation be much broader, wider, irrespective of gender.

How do they add to the organisation’s success?

Women today are more conscious about choices and options available to them. These greater levels of flexibility also allow them to entertain choices compared to previous generations. Women are able to adapt to work and home more readily, having a greater level of understanding of dual roles.



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