5 key steps to develop a successful leadership program
by Ricky Nowak
Every business wants good leaders. The quality of your leadership team can be the deciding factor between success and failure, and usually is. A leader is the one who makes sure that the company’s vision and long-term strategies are headed in the right direction and that everyone is working in-sync to ensure the best possible results.
But finding the right people for leadership positions is a difficult task. Even when the recession hit the business world and so many talented people were looking for work, companies still had great difficulty finding leaders that were qualified to properly execute their duties. This is because true leadership is not generic, it must be applicable and relevant to your organisation.
So, if a company wants to ensure that their leadership positions are filled with the right people, successful leadership development strategies must be established to attract and retain leaders. Every company’s leadership development program has to be in-line with the company strategy and there must be a clear understanding of what kind of leadership style or styles are needed in order to execute said strategy.
There are clear steps to attaining this, and they should all be taken into account in order to achieve the best short-term and long-term results.
1. Determining the best leadership style for the company
There are many variables like type of work, complexity of organization and qualifications of the staff which all contribute to determining the appropriate leadership style. Some companies require a more authoritative style while others need a creative approach. Other leadership styles include pluralistic, pacesetting, affiliate, coaching and coercive.
Identifying if a leader is the right fit for a company can be viewed from two key angles:
- Getting to know the candidate better. Thorough behavioral and psychological assessments help determine if a person has the requisite qualities to step into a leadership position.
- Understanding the company culture better. It can be of enormous benefit to interview employees (at all levels) and also those close to the company (affililiates, partners etc) in order to determine what type of leader works best in the company's environment.
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2. Identifying Potential Leaders Within the Company
In order to successfully detect and properly evaluate potential leaders within the organisation, a leadership development program has to identify the leadership skills and competencies that are required.
Competence models should be developed to help identify potential leaders among current employees. This can be done as part of regular performance reviews, supervision or counseling sessions. There are plenty of models to look at as a foundation for this and then customise to suit your organisation.
Of course there are common competencies that all potential leaders should possess. They must be able to analyse and interpret data and events, create and conceptualise new ideas, show the ability to lead and make important decisions and be able to adapt and cope in stressful situations.
Success measurements need to be clearly defined in order to develop effective models for identifying potential leaders. There are advantages to promoting from within compared to hiring from the outside, which include:
- Shorter adaptation time because of a better understanding of the company's internal politics and structure
- Positive influence on company morale and employee retention
- Opportunity to put potential leaders through auditions and training before their promotions.
3. Identify current and potential leadership gaps
In order to assess the company’s leadership needs, you must identify current and potential leadership gaps by studying present-day leadership needs, as well as future leadership needs.
Then you can compare current and future leadership requirements with the current team and start developing strategies to fill the needed positions and fill in the gaps.
4. Develop succession plans for key positions
A sudden departure of a CEO or other significant leader can cause a major disruption and be quite upsetting for employees, so one of the key elements in effective leadership development is to have clear succession plans in place.
There are a few key systems that are very important to the process:
- Setting up backfill strategies, that will process data from recruiting and performance review processes, along with individual career plans
- Having multiple options for succession and creating a short-list with all the most suited options for a position
- Keeping track of the preparedness of a candidate based on their skills, experience and performance
5. Develop retention programs for the leaders of today and the future
One of the most important aspects of retaining leaders and potential leaders is to motivate them with pay and other incentives.
Extensive research shows that although there are many ways to reward an employee for excellence and achievements, the most preferred method is still through bonuses and other pay schemes.
The retention of leaders and potential leaders is crucial as their departure is expensive and can have a significant negative impact on business performance.
More companies every year are recognising that having a successful and efficient leadership development program is paramount to the long-term growth and prosperity of a company, so understanding the key principles in setting up the program is essential.
Both recruitment and succession, when utilised correctly, can have a great positive influence on leadership development and can effectively ensure stability, good employee morale and a bright future for the company.
Business Chief Legend: Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek
Ask Singaporeans who Ho Ching is, and the majority will answer the ‘wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’. And that’s certainly true. However, she’s also the CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and one of the world’s largest investment companies.
Well, she is until October 1, 2021, as she recently announced she would be retiring following 16 years as CEO of the investment giant.
Since taking the reins in 2004, two years after joining Temasek as Executive Director, Ho has gradually transformed what was an investment firm wholly owned by Singapore’s Government into an active investor worldwide, splashing out on sectors like life sciences and tech, expanding its physical footprint with 11 offices worldwide (from London to Mumbai to San Francisco) and delivering growth of US$120 billion between 2010-2020.
Described by Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng as having taken “bold steps to open new pathways in finding the character of the organisations”, Ho is credited with building Temasek’s international portfolio, with China recently surpassing Singapore for the first time.
As global a footprint as Ho may have however, she has her feet firmly planted on Singapore soil and is committed to this tiny city-state where she was not only educated (excluding a year at Stanford) but has remained throughout her long and illustrious career – first as an engineer at the Ministry of Defence in 1976, where she met her husband, and most notably as CEO of Singapore Technologies, where she spent a decade, and where she is credited with repositioning and growing the group into the largest listed defence engineering company in Asia.
It’s little wonder Ho has featured on Forbes’ annual World’s Most Powerful Women list for the past 16 years, in 2007 as the third most powerful woman in business outside the US, and in 2020 at #30 worldwide.
But it’s not all business. Ho has a strong track record in Singapore public service, serving as chairman of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research and as deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board; and is a committed philanthropist with a focus on learning difficulties and healthcare.
As the pandemic kicked off, she not only led active investments in technology and life sciences, with German COVID-19 vaccine developer BioNTech among the most recent additions to Temasek’s portfolio, but through the Temasek Foundation – the firm’s philanthropic arm which supports vulnerable groups close to Ho’s heart, handed out hand sanitiser and face masks.
So, you would be forgiven for thinking that at age 68, Ho might simply relax. But in March 2021, just as she announced her retirement from Temasek, Ho joined the Board of Directors of Wellcome Leap, a US-based non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to accelerating innovations in global health. Not ready to put her firmly grounded feet up yet it seems.