While leadership is a widely researched topic that provides positive insights for leadership, we have not made the same strides in leadership development research (Day & Sin, 2009). This lag in effective research on leadership development is primarily due to the range of leadership models, the complexity of measurement and the abstract and complex nature of leadership (Riggio, 2008). All these factors make it challenging to develop and evaluate leadership effectively.
We know that leadership can be taught and improved through effective developmental strategies. However, there is ongoing global concern over the lack of effectiveness in leadership development, along with significant questions on the positive impact of traditional leadership development strategies (Howard & Wellins, 2009). It appears that there is a gap in our understanding of how to develop effective leadership effectively. Beer, Finnstrom, and Schrader (2016) estimated that organisations spend upwards of $350 billion globally on leadership development each year. Despite this investment, results have been mixed, and outcomes of leadership development strategies have been varied.
Traditional leadership development strategies are not working as effectively as they should. To effectively navigate the changing business context 2022 and beyond, we need to solve this issue. Day (2001) notes that there needs to be a shift from leadership development (traditional leadership development strategies) to leader development (developing the internal attributes of the leader). This shift requires that we focus on developing the internal attributes of the person before we attempt to enhance the external style of leadership. A growing body of research shows that improving the impact of leadership development requires a focus on building the internal attributes of the leader (Folan, 2019; Garbowski, 2010; Offutt, 2011).
So, what is Required of Leadership Development 2022 and Beyond
The business context of 2022 and beyond has dramatically shifted, and there is a requirement for a significant change in the focus of leadership development. The business focus has moved from maintaining momentum and managing change to thriving in turbulence and building agility to cope with disruption. This context requires a new kind of leader and a new strategy for leadership development. Now, more than ever, we need leaders who can remain optimistic in times of disruption and deliver innovative businesses strategies that allow the organisation to flourish and succeed.
Research has clearly and consistently shown that great things happen when leaders deliver a transformational leadership style. This leadership style energises the organisation’s capacity and enhances the ability to flourish in turbulent times (Bass & Bass, 2008; Bass & Riggio, 2006). However, we have only recently started to explore the personal attributes required to deliver a transformational leadership style. Recent research has shown that, without the attribute of resilience, leaders can’t deliver a transformational leadership style (Folan, 2019; Garbowski, 2010; Offutt, 2011). If we are going to fix the global deficit of effective leadership development, we need to shift our focus and build the essential attributes for effective leadership. No matter how much we invest in developing the transformational capability of the leader, we will always end up in the same place, with a global deficit of effective leadership. We need to change our focus and start to enhance the attribute of leader resilience. This is the development that will enable leaders to flourish in 2022 and beyond. Research shows it is impossible to be a transformational leader and thrive in turbulent times without being resilient (Folan, 2019).
The synergistic relationship between resilience and leadership means that delivering a transformational leadership style requires a commitment to developing resilience. Organisations need to realign their development strategies and build leader resilience to enhance leadership capacity and capability successfully. A leader without resilience is like a car without gas—it just won’t get you very far. No matter how many skills the leader is given or how competent they are. Like the car without gas, the leader is going nowhere without resilience. The importance of resilience in leadership cannot be overstated: it is the fuel that enables effective leadership.
The focus going forward needs to be on developing, selecting, and promoting people into leadership roles who want to lead and are actively developing their resilience to enable an effective leadership style. In 2022 and beyond, effective leadership is critical and will be the differentiator of organisations across the globe. If you want your organisation to stand out from the competition and deliver sustainable success, your leadership development strategies must focus on the internal attributes of the leader.
Written by Dr. Lynda Folan.
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