Mint Group Head of People, Lauren Clark

Why is Leadership Development so important today?

It feels like one would be hard-pressed to find a world leader today who is competent, worthy of respect, humble, leads by example, and who is trustworthy. Perhaps you are mentally ticking off a few leaders who have demonstrated exceptional leadership during 2020, their success measured on keeping their constituents safe from the COVID-19 horrors and ensuring a secure and sustainable economic recovery. Essentially, doing the job they were elected to office to do.

This is the challenge with global leadership today – we have very few examples of leaders in the political space, however that is the area that is getting all the attention and focus. It would be easy to lament this in a long, verbose commentary of complaints. No, thank you! I think we have all had enough negativity for 2020. Our focus should rather be on our own environment, the places and spaces we occupy personally, professionally, socially, spiritually. This is where we can create powerful change and this is where we can construct succession plans across all aspects of society that ensure we have better, competent, and capable leadership in place.

Leadership Development should start in nursery schools and not because it is about recognising the loudest, most organised, most connected 5-year-old. But rather, it is about teaching the foundational skills required for effective and successful leadership throughout life. There are countless Leadership Models and every week a new book is published on Leadership, whether it be a strategy, style, or metric. The three most common elements across the board seem to be Trust, Communication, and Empathy.

Trust enables real empowerment

Leaders need to be trustworthy and need to trust others. Trust enables real empowerment and establishes confidence within the team. It requires vulnerability, respect, and integrity. More importantly, trustworthy behaviour is learned through observation – I have a 3-year-old, so believe me when I say I know this to be true. Children observe us all the time and pick up on our behaviours, language, and attitude. If we tell them there is a limit on screen-time but we are always on our phone, we are sending a message of “Do what I say, not what I do” which is hardly trust-building. Trust flows down and trickles up, which means that the people in leadership must demonstrate their integrity and trustworthiness for it to become the fabric of the culture of the company.

Leaders need to communicate clearly and effectively

There is no right or wrong way, there is only successful and unsuccessful communication.  Just because we have a mouth and ears does not mean we automatically know how to communicate effectively and efficiently. Speaking and listening are skills that should be taught from a young age and developed along the way – it is not just for those in Senior Management roles.

Leadership is about empathy

I cannot stress this enough – Leadership is about empathy and empathy is critical to leadership. Focusing on empathy within the workplace makes for solid, sustainable, and successful leadership. There has been much focus on empathy in the last decade, and rightly so. As our working environments and social awareness shave become more human-focused, so we have brought into focus the relationships and interconnectedness of people.

And with this in mind, it should be crystal clear why organisations need to establish and implement Leadership Development programmes. Leadership training should expand across the organisation to ensure inclusivity and diversity, which will ensure that the structure never gets stale or becomes irrelevant. The training should also be versatile to accommodate remote Leadership requirements and be  accessible to all employees to  ensure a wider range of  participants  Leadership Development programmes within organisations can utilise real time scenarios and effective “crowdfunding – style” problem solving to ensure the sustainability and future success of the business.

If 2020 has taught us anything, we need to be prepared for the unexpected. And one way of ensuring your organisation thrives, is by having an evergreen leadership learning environment in place. For everyone, not just the people at the top.