New Business Realities Require New Leadership Competencies

As business gets more complex (due to globalization, more diverse employees and customers, technological shifts, and other factors), confidence in leaders at all levels is declining. 

According to a survey that Bersin by Deloitte conducted:

•    71% of respondents have confidence in their senior leaders (down 9% from a  previous study).

•    Significantly fewer, 49%, have confidence in their midlevel leaders (down 17%).

•    Only 30% have confidence in their frontline leaders (down 2%).

To a great extent leaders today are "pioneers" in uncharted territory. Many have underestimated the new business reality and in some cases minimized the overall context in which they’re leading. To regain the confidence and commitment of their teams, they still need fundamental competencies in the areas of integrity, strategy, results and execution, judgment, and team development, but more is expected today. They need additional skills to move their organizations forward and achieve success. 

This means that you need to invest in developing your leaders, now more than ever. And as you prepare them for an ever-changing and more complex business environment, it’s helpful to consider the following four trends.

Trend One: The specific competencies needed by today’s and tomorrow’s leaders go beyond visible behaviors. Leaders need to develop cognitive skills in order to deliver the behaviors that drive employee engagement, innovation, and organizational growth. 

Trend Two: Further, organizations need to develop their own leaders from within who have specific skills and knowledge of the business. A growing number of companies are providing emerging leader development as a tool to retain high-potential employees and to build a pool of talent that they can tap into as the organization changes direction, grows, or discovers other opportunities. 

Trend Three: Organizations must take new approaches to imbue leaders at all levels with the needed skills and experiences to prepare them for new challenges. Additionally, the leaders themselves must take a more hands-on approach to their own development. Leaders can no longer be passive classroom learners and call it enough. They must be active learners who incorporate new skills in their daily activities. This requires reading, seeking input, volunteering for experiences and projects outside of the norm, and taking action to learn from others within their own work environment. 

Trend Four: When developing leaders, the old rule of 70% formal classroom training, 20% networking and coaching, and 10% on-the-job learning is now reversed. Effective programs today focus on a mix of 70% guided on-the-job learning, 20 % coaching and networking, and 10% formal learning. Tools for development include:

•    Engaging action learning teams on long- or short-term business cases or projects. 
•    Creating deeper and more diverse networks between leaders. 
•    Utilizing group coaching so participants can learn from one another. 
•    Utilizing technology to enhance virtual collaboration. 
•    Incorporating mentoring or peer coaching to work on just-in-time challenges. 

New business realities require new leadership competencies and more effective approaches to developing leaders. If your organization is still using outmoded methods such as classroom training as the sole development tool, your leaders are falling behind. Bringing creative and contemporary leadership development approaches into the work environment takes planning and flawless execution—but by doing so, you’ll see a direct connection between your leaders’ growth and your bottom line. 


Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.