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How to grow and develop future leaders

BY: Frik Landman|16 April 2019
BLOG| Business leadership and strategy

It is generally understood that a company’s long-term success can mostly be attributed to the strength of its leadership. If this rings true, then growing and developing future leaders is absolutely critical for every business – and never more so than in the Fourth Industrial Revolution where driving adaptability, innovation and progress is critical to staying in business.

Here Frik Landman, CEO of Stellenbosch Graduate Institute, answers questions from today’s leaders about developing the tomorrow’s leaders.


1. How do we make sure we have a pipeline of leadership talent?

There is a strong business case for the identification and growth of leadership talent. Too many ‘great’ companies are failing at this, which seems to indicate that there isn’t a good enough grasp of complexities of the new world of work we are entering.

So how can you go about identifying and growing talent?

  • There should be a leadership talent identification and development framework which is effectively driven throughout the organisation. This avoids a leader simply following his or her instincts and not growing leadership at every level and division.
  • In growing people, everyone is different, a tailored intervention per person is critical.
  • Growing leadership talent is not an episodic approach it is a constant process so should be entrenched in the DNA of the organisation.
  • What should a customised leadership talent identification and development look like?
  • Link it to the organisation development framework but tailor it to the individual in their decentralised context
  • Keep it simple process
  • Leaders build culture so make sure that what is designed fits and supports the culture of the organisation
  • Schedule a series of regular conversations (two-way) during which honest feedback can be given and received. Check-in on ‘homework’ given and the results of that. This will give the leader excellent insight into the potential of the talent being developed. In these conversations identification and growth are intertwined i.e. you will gain insight into the potential or readiness to develop, you will understand the level of engagement you are dealing with and importantly you will gain insight into the aspirations of leadership candidate. These windows on your talent should be significant for the identification and development process.


2. Which leadership qualities are the most effective in the world as it is today?

Although context play a big part in being successful, there are also universal qualities that contribute to leadership strength. Many leadership development interventions (in fact more than 60%) fail to produce the required results and one of the strong negative drivers is when a company only exposes a few selected people to be developed in the universal skills. Why?


We still cling to this old-fashioned idea that the label of leadership belongs to those at the top or at most to a selected few in particular positions at a particular level. Not so. You want to be a leader of leaders.


That is if you understand the new world of work, we find ourselves in, if we understand the increase in big data, understand the 4IR and its implications for our world. We have to start thinking of organisations as human-populated systems and not necessarily a strict hierarchy of people awaiting the decisions of those above them before they act. Decision-making is all the more de-centralised and ought to be taken as close to the point of action as possible.


Five possible universal qualities that have stood the test of time and emerged from many studies:

1. They (leaders) are educated people.

What does that mean? A degree or diploma? Not necessarily. It does however mean three things i.e. 1) that they have the ability to think critically, deeply and analytically, 2) that they have the ability to look at the same complex problem from different points, through different lenses and make synthesised observation in anticipation of an action and, 3) they have the ability to find meaning in the work they do and the life they lead.

2. Leaders have the ability to dissolve problems effectively

Solving a problem is an illusion! This is difficult and requires skills and different views on the world yet remains an outstanding quality of a leader. In this they understand their industry, their business, their ‘game’. They know it inside-out. They keep abreast of changes and trends.

3. Leaders seek different perspectives

When dealing with difficult contexts, leaders are always inviting in different opinions and considering contradictory approaches. This is all part of their analysis and synthesis in dealing with their world and its problems.

4. Leaders are purposeful and purposive

They seek a particular outcome and at times it comes about through strategy (purposeful) and at times it comes about by whatever means (purposive) – the point is they get to the required destination. They are in essence result-orientated. ‘There’ means a better place than where we are.

5. Leaders have a way of working people

Leaders mobilise a team towards a common purpose - a destination better than the one where they are currently. And what makes the leader so effective in this is the way she supports the people. In essence it means that leaders are of service to others. Support means not to just motivate them towards the endgame, but to skill them, to have conversations, to treat them as human beings and in all of this build trust. Trust is the ultimate currency for a leader. They cannot trade in another currency.


3. Which SGI courses will best equip individuals to:

When we design our leadership programmes we focus on those behaviours and qualities that the new world of work demands and that will, in our view, drive the performance of a company. It is even more refined when we design this for a particular company. But we have to be practical and design discerning content and processes irrespective of different contexts.


The content we consider and the learning process we employ have an important driver in mind: lasting change. The programmes are underpinned with a deep understanding of how adults learn and what we learn from our partners in neuroscience.


We consider generic organisational context and in that we give guidance in the implementation of the new skills and insights gained. The signature activities throughout the programme are serving that purpose. It is part of the intent of the design to have impact and the student should be able effect the environment and assess the impact.


What to choose if you are moving into a leadership position

  • If you have the time and the means do the National Certificate in General Management. It will give you a sound base as a leader and broad view of your role. You can always deepen your insights into one of its components, but what you need to remember is that it is now required of you to achieve your success through other people and no longer you alone.
  • If I have to choose a module and I am a first-time leader, I will start with myself and do the module on Acquire the Ultimate Intelligence i.e. that is on emotional intelligence. That is the learning that just grows in value the longer you are a leader.
  • If you want to dig in a bit deeper, I would suggest you do the module on Leadership and Emotional Intelligence which pulls the lenses just a bit wider.


What to choose if you are already a leader and want to be as effective as possible in the position


Remember John Maxwell’s saying: if you say you are a leader, but you have no-one following you, you are only going for a walk.


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