e-book The Future of Learning: Insights and Innovations from Executive Development

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We see the multidimensional nature of exposure for leadership development popping up in several places.


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First, coaching and mentoring are common ways to expose high-potentials to diverse challenges and solutions, and this can go beyond the usual assignments with established managers. For example, a transportation company connects its high-potentials with veteran leaders outside the company through a virtual and face-to-face external mentoring program. Another company, Xerox, exposes leaders from various life stages and generations to each other. Second, a key aspect of exposure in leadership development is providing leaders with an external perspective. The data are clear. Exposure is how leaders learn best, because exposure is what enables them to gather intelligence in the relevant business context: They learn with and from other industry leaders what works and what does not.

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Organizations that make the effort to offer opportunities for exposure as part of their leadership development double their ability to innovate and anticipate change over those that offer formal programs only. When we compared the survey responses of HR and business leaders with regard to accountability for leadership development, we found a baffling discrepancy. While 41 percent of business leaders said that they are mainly responsible for leadership development in their organizations, only 16 percent of human resources leaders agreed with this statement.

Regardless of what actually goes on at these companies, this discrepancy is indicative of the disagreement that exists between business and HR leaders on several aspects of leadership growth efforts. Either or both may lead to a lack of accountability for and misalignment of leadership growth efforts, both of which are fundamental challenges to effective leadership development initiatives. The most mature companies we studied seemed to have found a way to create a symbiosis in which HR uses its expertise in leadership development to collaborate closely with business leaders, who apply and model leadership learning in the workplace.

These power teams coordinate development efforts, ensure that business leaders go beyond passive sponsorship, and actively work to promote the growth of other leaders. As basic an activity as it may seem, many organizations struggle to connect HR with business leaders in a mutually supportive way, despite the fact that organizations with strong collaborative relationships between HR and business leaders are six times more likely to excel at identifying and developing leaders. In other words, the organizational context is where leadership development happens.

Despite her promising career path, Lynn was so discouraged by the lack of support for her development that she left her company. Thanks to an acquaintance in the industry, she soon found a similar position at another pharmaceutical firm. Her onboarding included meetings with senior business leaders from across several functions, as well as various networking events.

As part of her new role, she was sent on a one-week tour to visit clients together with some of the sales executives she would be working with. Further, her boss encouraged her to join a local business community group where she would meet other business leaders from whom she could learn. The encouragement to access information and learning opportunities via leaders outside of her organization and immediate job realm was new to Lynn, but she quickly learned she could bring back highly valuable insights to her company.

Her onboarding also involved her working out a multifaceted and continual leadership development plan, customized for her role at work. This concerted effort included a day plan focused around time, talent, and relationships three of the most important factors driving the success of transitioning executives.

Though formal training programs have their place, on their own, they have an individualist bias. They tend to send the message that individual skills and actions, independent of social skills and connections, are what matter to be a strong leader. Our research says otherwise. By socializing development into the workplace context, organizations can help to convey the new dynamics of leadership. The most effective way to promote social leadership is by setting the expectation that leadership happens in social settings every single day. Our research shows that this socialized approach works—and that organizations that use it have more capable leaders and stronger business outcomes.

Cover image by: Livia Cives. The authors would like to thank Josh Bersin and Jeff Schwartz for their contributions to the article. View in article. Measured on the basis of their performance on business outcomes and the percentage of leaders displaying eight critical leadership capabilities according to the Deloitte leadership maturity model. For this analysis, we identified organizations in our sample that are publicly traded and gathered 22 of their financial metrics. We developed a three-year average of the data for , , and , which formed the basis for subsequent analyses.

We are presenting two metrics, revenue per employee and gross profit margin, because they showed a statistical difference between low and high maturity levels for the overall sample at a minimum 95 percent confidence level. Derler, High-impact leadership. Jensen, High flyers: What sets them apart?

Kim Lamoureaux, Fostering innovation through learning: Qualcomm builds a culture of entrepreneurship, creativity, and risk taking , Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP, , www.

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Ongoing Bersin by Deloitte leadership research, — Ongoing Bersin by Deloitte leadership and HR research, Innovation catalysts are a community of Intuit employees who facilitate and coach teams and individuals across the company to use specific principles and tools to innovate.

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Better pond, bigger fish has been added to your bookmarks. Better pond, bigger fish has been removed from your bookmarks. An article titled Better pond, bigger fish already exists in the bookmark library. Social login not available on Microsoft Edge browser at this time. Welcome back. Still not a member? Join My Deloitte. Article 23, January, Andrea Derler. Anthony Abbatiello. Stacia Garr. Swimming upstream? Leadership development through organizational design and culture The best ecosystem for leadership development: Your own organization.

Action step checklist: Communicating the leadership profile For business leaders: Identify business contexts and challenges that future leaders should be able to manage effectively and determine what attributes those leaders need to bring to the table. Socialize the leadership success profile with peers and direct reports and provide insights back to HR. Communicate what it means to be a leader in the organization at every opportunity.

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This might mean, for example, that leaders blog, tweet, or record videos or podcasts about experiences with real-life business issues that illustrate how desired leadership behaviors led to success. Model the behaviors you expect other leaders to demonstrate. For HR: Co-create an evidence-based leadership profile with business units to set clear expectations for leadership. Use the leadership success profile to identify, assess, select, and develop leaders. Identify and use different communication channels for discussing leadership expectations and the required capabilities for future leaders.

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This likely means working with business leaders to create opportunities for communication such as those described above. Have you taken a risk today? Fostering a climate of exploration and experimentation To work effectively in fast-changing markets and technologies, budding leaders need to build up their risk tolerance. Create an environment in which people feel genuinely comfortable with taking risks, such as sharing and implementing new concepts and ideas.

They can create incentives and rewards for action that demonstrate appropriate risk-taking by team members, and reprimand counterproductive behaviors. Identify obstacles that discourage risk-taking and help people navigate those obstacles. For example, determine whether existing cultural values inhibit risk-taking, or if specific typical behaviors express risk intolerance in employees. Publicly recognize and reward those who take calculated risks, even when they fail.

For HR: Use evidence-based assessments to identify high-potential leaders with change potential and high risk tolerance. Publicize stories of how appropriate risk-taking practices led to good business outcomes. Set expectations and design processes to promote rapid-prototyping approaches to new ideas. Foster building reciprocal relationships and alliances across the business.


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  6. Advocate for digital tools and social media channels to help improve knowledge-sharing. Recognize and reward those who continually learn about the business broadly. For HR: Establish real-time, broad communication of company insights and innovations. Raise expectations and resources to support peer-to-peer feedback.


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    See the world: Exposing leaders to other leaders, new contexts, and novel challenges According to our data, 84 percent of global organizations offer formal learning programs for leadership development, and 76 percent develop leaders through experiential programs such as business projects, job rotations, or stretch assignments.