Over the last 10 years, the workplace has evolved and changed — and never more so than over the past year, due to the pandemic. With these changes, our leadership development programs need to align more closely with the modern workforce and its needs. Gone are the days of “command and control” leadership, where leaders focused on telling everyone what to do and how to do it and strongly reprimand those who didn’t measure up. Today’s employees won’t stay or be motivated to perform under that kind of leadership style.

To keep employees productive, engaged and performing at their best, leaders need to change their leadership skill set tone to focus on collaboration, authenticity and a high level of emotional intelligence. So, where do you start?

Build a Case for the Modern Leader

To modernize your leadership development programs, you’ll probably have to connect with a number of stakeholders and decision-makers. In this case, doing the research is important. You may realize that a key skill for the modern leader is emotional intelligence, but can you sell that skill to your stakeholders — especially if they haven’t modernized their own leadership beliefs? Find studies that can tell the story of how emotionally intelligent leaders have more productive teams, reduce turnover and build engagement.

Research comes from employees as well.  What are your employees saying about the kind of leadership they are looking for? Seek access to employee engagement surveys, and look for themes. Ask for exit interview data, which may point you in the direction of why employees leave your company. If you create a clear case for why leadership skills need to evolve in your organization, you’ll gain the buy-in from your stakeholders to make the changes you need.

Create a Vision

Think about what you’re trying to achieve with your leadership program, and convey it in words that will evoke a positive emotion. For example, here’s how Disney describes its leadership program:

“Learn how leaders can inspire excellence and elevate others to excel. Great leaders are able to affect positive change—and sustain it. They align their personal values and vision with those of the organization. The most meaningful way a leader can impress a shared vision upon others is to passionately and clearly articulate these ideas, and personally shepherd them into practice.”

Best Buy also captures its vision of leadership in this description:

“The Way We Lead is framed by our three guiding behaviors – Be human, Make it real, and Think about tomorrow. This helps us maintain excellence in leadership at Best Buy and ultimately provide the best guest experience possible. Our supportive leaders collaborate with their teams through ongoing feedback to ensure continual growth. They inspire our people to bring their best selves to work. Conversations with leaders focus on amplifying each person’s strengths and setting up employees for future success. By investing in our employee experience, we empower our teams to provide service that leaves customers feeling excited, confident, and appreciated.”

By creating a vision statement, you’ll capture the essence of what leadership can attain for your organization.

Don’t Underestimate the Change

For change to be effective, you’ll need your leadership program to develop skills in both the current leaders in your organization as well as new leaders that are hired or promoted. Established leaders taking a course on vulnerability and authenticity may find that this type of leadership is a significant change for them. Not all of them will embrace this new way of leading their team.

Give learners the space to have dissenting opinions, find ways to address their concerns and help them see the benefits of becoming a modern leader. By having all your leaders on board with the new leadership vision, you’ll be able to achieve the change you’re looking for.

Modern leadership focuses on transformative relationships built on trust. Developing a training program that will help leaders apply these new skills takes more than just delivering some new courses. It takes buy-in from your stakeholders, a clear vision and a change management plan. Once these components are in place, you’ll find that your leadership development program will achieve the level of support and success you’re looking for.

Editor’s note: Don’t miss our infographic on modern leadership development, which shares insights from learning leaders like this one.

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