Leadership Development Trends within Management

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Leadership Development Trends within Management

In 2015, 54 percent of employers surveyed expected to increase spending on leadership development. Businesses are focusing on leadership as the business environment becomes more complex, challenging and difficult to manage. The role of leaders has changed from the singular visionary who controls all aspects of the business to a collaboration of multiple leaders who benefit from an array of perspectives and creative thinking. The following trends in leadership development are being used to match the needs of the new environment and ultimately create better leaders.

Focus on vertical development

From a leadership perspective, vertical development, or the ability of an employee to develop more complex, critical thinking, has replaced horizontal development as a preferred method of evaluating a leader’s effectiveness. Whereas horizontal development focuses on competencies, vertical development comes about in stages that the individual alone has to earn. Many believe that competencies don’t add value. Since the business environment has become increasingly complex, a high level of cognitive development is required. Qualities like, the ability to understand complexities, react faster and strategize better have become more important.

As managers climb up the levels of cognitive development, their problem-solving skills become more attuned to solving complex problems. Adults develop their cognitive abilities in stages. They start off by forming ideas based on the expectations of others and next develop a personal ideology that is aligned with specific beliefs and values. The higher-level stage involves recognizing that one’s own ideology is limited and gaining the ability to hold more contradicting and opposite ideas. In this level of cognitive development, the leader avoids relying on polarized ways of thinking. This broad perspective allows for greater capacity for tackling difficult problems.

Greater focus on the collective rather than individual leadership

In business, the trend toward individualism has shifted to a more collective effort. Increased complexity and adaptive challenges make it difficult for one person to define problems and know the solutions. A collaborative effort between leaders is necessary. By sharing information, creating plans and influencing each other, more innovative solutions can be realized. Leaders best function in a network where creativity and innovation are spurred by the combination of seeing existing ideas in new ways, open flows of information, flexible hierarchies, distributed resources and the loosening of centralized controls.

Chief Organizational Capability Officer

The concept of the chief organizational capability officer recognizes a real need in leadership development. Companies can no longer rely on a single individual, as collaboration becomes a more integral aspect of leadership. When there is one leader, succession becomes difficult. Managers must invest in leadership as a collective organizational capability by teaching, developing and holding people accountable for appropriate leadership attributes and behaviors. Operating leaders will be responsible for integrating and organizing change, innovation, networking and talent and focusing on integrated, multi-disciplinary perspectives and solutions.

Customization and collaboration within leadership styles

Many of the challenges that companies will face in an increasingly complex environment will require multi-disciplinary and cross-functional perspectives. Leadership development must encompass broader strategic context and business solutions while capitalizing on diverse needs and interests. Integrated sets of solutions will be required to provide broader strategic context and answers to these complex issues. Leaders will be required through frequent feedback, employee reviews and action plan follow up, to know the talent. Leadership development will vary based on each leader’s unique capabilities and roles.

Managing Individuals from Diverse Backgrounds

Another trend in leadership development deals with diversity and how company leaders manage employees from different backgrounds. Leaders must be culturally informed and make a substantial effort to embrace diverse individuals. This requires leaders to educate themselves about different cultures and establish a welcoming environment for diverse individuals to thrive. They should also be able to recognize the strengths and talents of diverse employees, in order to benefit from the insight and innovative thinking of unique perspectives.

Innovation styles reflecting workforce expectations

Technology and the Internet allow for the sharing and innovation of leadership development styles. Connecting people in leadership cultures rather than individual programs will help teams engage in practices that further their own levels of development.

Since the workforce is more mobile, virtual and globally distributed, development programs must work to accommodate these changes. Jobs are frequently becoming a shorter term, freelance-driven and more project-based. Leadership development programs must be focused, have a quick turnaround and utilize technology in design and delivery methods.

Millennials spur innovation that reflects their expectations in the workforce because they want to affiliate with institutions that value the importance of economic and social contributions. The need for a strong balance between performance and purpose is important in creating healthy, well-rounded, purpose-driven leaders.

As a result of the changing business environment, a new leader is needed. The new era of leadership development must focus on cognitive, complex thinking, collaborative innovation, and diverse perspectives.

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