Leadership Development Programmes in Africa Requires a New Approach
An updated view of leadership development programmes in Africa

Leadership Development Programmes in Africa Requires a New Approach

If a tree is judged by the fruit it bares then perhaps it’s time to reconfigure our approach to leadership development programmes. It’s clear that we cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions.  The need for effective leadership development in Africa has never been more of a priority. With a growing population, significant environmental, and economic challenges we need leaders who can set direction and inspire followers. 

Most businesses will acknowledge that to survive in today’s volatile, uncertain, and complex, environment, we need leadership capabilities and organizational cultures different from those that helped us to succeed in the past. We also increasingly belive that leadership development should not be restricted to the few who are in or close to the C-suite.

We need effective leadership throughout the organisation. Just as we have will have a number of leaders on a sports field who might not be the captain, in organisational teams we need both formal and informal leaders. Leaders need to be equipped with the relevant technical, relational, and communication skills.

The leadership development sector, however, has become enormously diverse. Many leadership development providers still deliver age-old techniques and approaches. And yet organisations that collectively spend billions of dollars annually to train current and future executives are growing frustrated with the results.

Several large-scale industry studies indicate that more than 50% of senior leaders believe that their talent development efforts don’t adequately build critical skills and organizational capabilities. 

What is wrong with Traditional Executive Education Programmes

Business owners, company directors and HR leaders find that traditional leadership development programmes no longer sufficiently prepare executives for the challenges they face today and those they will face tomorrow. Companies are seeking the communicative, interpretive, affective, and perceptual skills needed to lead coherent, proactive collaboration. But most executive education programmes focus on discipline-based skill sets, such as strategy development and financial analysis. They seriously underplay important soft skills of influence, communication, relationship-based and affective skills. If we want to develop effective leaders we need to think progressively.

No wonder boards of directors say they are hesitant in approving annual training and development budgets. These same members of the board would themselves have been part of outdated Leadership development programmes.

Executive education programmes also fall short of their own stated objective. Continued Professional Development has been a buzzword in corporate and university circles for decades, but it is still far from a reality. Traditional executive education happens too seldom, is to exclusive, and expensive to achieve that goal.

Not surprisingly, business schools, have seen demand increase significantly for customized, Executive Short Course programmes that focus specifically on the needs of the organisation. 

There are a number of reasons for why the world of leadership development is not working. Firstly, learners have their own motivations. Companies send their executives on leadership development course for the good of the business. This is natural as the business needs to find new solutions to their channels and want to remain competitive.

Individuals on the other hand often have their own futures and careers in mind. As there is a lack of commitment to what the organisation so doing the intentions become selfish. People sent on executive development programmes might also see this as an indication that senior management feels that they are not doing their job effectively.  

Thirdly, there is the gap between the skills that executive development programmes focus on and those that the business actually require. There is a real lack of inter personal skilss being taught today. These skills are essential for leaders to be effective in today’s flat and increasingly collaborative based organisations where networks and relationships are crucial.

Traditional providers bring deep expertise in teaching thinking skills but often lack the ability to teach interpersonal, skills communication and influence. 

Lastly there is the skills transfer gap. Executives simple find it difficult to transfer what they learned in the classroom to the operating floor. To develop essential leadership and managerial talent, organisations must bridge these three gaps.

The crucial follow up after an executive education course is also missing. At GEBS we ensure that all our executive short courses repacked with three months of follow up coaching. This ensures that classroom learning is effectively transferred to the reality of the business.

Can Executives apply their newly developed knowledge and skills to the business?

One of the biggest complaints we hear when discussing executive education is that the skills and capabilities developed don’t get applied on the job. This challenges the very foundation of executive education, but it is not surprising. This has certainly been an age old problem. The situation where the skill is learned is often abstract, whereas the application for that knowledge is very dynamic. As the student, or in this case the executive learner did not have to consider the dynamics where they would need to apply their knowledge, the opportunity to be more effective is lost. 

Real world evidence on skills transfer suggests that barely 10% of corporate training and development delivers concrete results. That’s a staggering amount of waste. This certainly highlights the need for a new approach to leadership development. 

The good news is that through many years of education and training experience together with 1000’s of hours of experimentation, coaching conversations, and onsite leadership engagement, we have found a more effective way for executive leaders to learn.  

In this article, we describe the evolution of leadership development, the dynamics behind the changes, and some of the approaches and technologies we use to ensure learning becomes more impactful for the business.

The State of Leadership Development

The traditional players within the leadership development industry, such as business schools and corporate universities have been joined by a variety of newcomers. These include human resource advisory firms, large management consultancies like McKinsey and BCG, and digital start-ups like Coursera and Udacity. The sector is changing at a rapid speed but it’s a world we’ve gotten to know very well as educators.  

The Landscape of Providers

We have seen an increase in demand for executive education and leadership development solutions which can be customised to the unique and ever-changing requirements of the business. The service level agreements for the delivery of these solutions are also becoming more specific.

Modern-day managers want to be able to track and measure the effectiveness of training courses.  Directors want to see the impact on the companies’ bottom line. For us as an executive education provider, this is of utmost importance, as it provides evidence of the quality we deliver.

The state of the industry 

We’re now starting to see powerful trends reshaping the industry and fuelling the emergence of the Bespoke Corporate Training (BCT). First, the need for BCT has emerged as organisations are constantly seeking new opportunities for differentiation.  Chief human resources officers (CHROs) and chief learning officers (CLOs) wants to ensure that they are spending money on something that will really enhance the performance of the organisation.

A recent study reports that the quantity of corporate universities globally —which provide education in-house, on-demand, and, often, on the job—has exploded to quite 4,000 within the US alone and near twice that number worldwide. Customized programmes will often cost more so there is an additional expectation of value add for the business.

We believe that within the longer term, due to the use of digital advances and a more competitive sector, that costs will become more competitive.

We are also seeing the decline of ordinary classroom-based programs for executive development. Those primarily offered by business schools and universities seem to be on the way out. Most organisations are demanding pre- and post measures of the acquisition and application of relevant skills. The requirement of softer skills like communicative competence and leadership ability. Traditional programmes were never designed to deliver this.

Lastly we have become aware of an increase of customizable learning environments. These platforms and applications personalize content according to learners’ roles and their organisations’ needs. In our experience, although learnin platforms do provide fast access to learning, firms are still seeking a face to face element. The additional support coaching that we offer is also very difficult to offer through a digital platform.

These trends are linked and form a cohesive pattern: As learning becomes personalized, socialized, and adaptive, and as organisations get more sophisticated at gauging the return on investment in talent development, the industry is moving away from pre-packaged one-size-fits-all material and turning instead to the BCT approach. BCT enables the fast to respond, high value universities and in-house learning programs within to lead the way.

Underlying and amplifying these trends is the rapid digitization of content and interaction, which is reshaping the leadership development industry in three important ways.

  1. It allows the disaggregation (or unbundling) of the low-cost elements of a program from the high-cost ones. Education providers’ profits depend on their ability to bundle low-cost content with high-value experiences like personalized coaching, The more high-touch services included within the package, the more a provider can charge.
  2. Digitization makes it easier to deliver value more efficiently. As an example , classroom lectures are often videotaped then viewed online by greater numbers of learners at their convenience. Similarly, discussion groups and forums to deepen understanding of the lecture concepts are often orchestrated online, often via platforms like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts. This allows more people to participate—and with less trouble and expense. Millennials are already comfortable with social media-based interactions, therefore the worth of being physically present on campus could even be wearing thin anyway. 
  3. Finally, digitization is leading to disintermediation. Traditionally, universities, business schools, and management consultancies have served as intermediaries linking companies and their employees to educators—academics, consultants, and coaches. Now, however, companies can go online to identify (and often curate) the highest-quality individual teachers, learning experiences, and modules—not just the highest-quality programs. 

Let’s get back to the key question.

What Does Today’s Workplace Need Its Leaders to do?

  • Today’s organisation requires radically different leadership skills to survive within the always-changing global economy. Business leaders must make their organisations more flexible and responsive. For that to happen companies must:
  • Foster an environment which is conducive to learning and self-renewal 
  • Create an appetite and agility for continuous change 
  • View every organizational member as a source of valuable ideas 
  • Share their expertise also as their mistakes freely with others 
  • Introduce a high level of patience and tolerance for ambiguity 
  • Share power and decision making with others throughout the organization 
  • Show commitment to their own learning 
  • Have a robust sense of purpose for themselves and therefore the organization 
  • Be willing to share important organizational information in the least levels 
  • Encourage relationships and therefore the building of networks
  • illustrate courage and encourage others through their own actions
  • Respond to both spoken and unspoken needs of others within the organization
  • Have high personal and professional standards
  • The fast-changing marketplace increased global competition, and leaner organizational structures require radically different skills and attitudes from all individuals within the workplace.

What else does the workplace need its people to do?

Learning is of course not limited to leaders and managers in the organisation. People across the business need to learn and adapt to the environment in which it exists. So what else does the business expect from its people?

• Embrace change: Never has the pace been more rapid than it’s in today’s market place. Organisations must respond quickly and be innovative to survive, including have a competitive advantage. this needs a versatile, adaptable workforce. Corporations simply don’t have the reserves to tolerate anything less. This translates to a spread of the latest work arrangements, including changing work assignments, flexible work schedules, and regularly re-forming work teams.

• Learn to thrive on uncertainty: Flatter, leaner organisational structures mean that there’s less day-to-day direction from the highest. Individuals are going to be expected to make networks within and outside their organisations, become more creative, collaborate, answer frequently changing priorities, and assume personal responsibility for setting their own direction.

• Stay up to date with technology: the web is rapidly becoming the hub of the worldwide marketplace, and therefore the corporation’s workforce will get to develop and maintain its proficiency in computer and telecommunications technology so as to be viable. Teleconferencing and virtual learning are but two samples of how organisations are orienting their practices within the global economy.

• Learn to form network relationships: Increasingly, organisations are getting into alliances, mergers, and joint ventures with former competitors. the power to manage lateral relationships is going to be a critical determinant in peoples’ ability to realize results. not can organisations afford internal compartmentalization and therefore the associated redundancy characteristic of traditional management structures. Cross-functional work teams and matrix structures are the order of the day, and that they require a more demanding set of interpersonal skills.

• Leverage learning opportunities: Organisations, which survive and thrive within the 21st century, are going to be those, which are continually renewing and learning. People within these organisations are going to be expected to assume full responsibility for managing their learning in response to changing organizational needs. Learning itself is changing quickly. In the place of prescribed curriculums being handed down from “experts”, people are going to be an opportunity to create their own learning opportunities to harness their individual creativity and skills.

• Develop a special perspective on career advancement: Career advancement within the traditional organizational structure consisted of upward promotions throughout one’s career. Leaner organizational structures preclude that expectation within 21st-century corporations. 

• Add value: The organization can not afford the workforce that merely meet expectations. Increasingly, standards are being raised to make sure competitive advantage, and exemplary performance are going to be the norm. people that thrive in organisations are going to be those that pursue opportunities to feature value. they’re going to see themselves as stakeholders within the business.

• Alter expectations about employment: Contract work, outsourcing, temporary employment, telecommuting, virtual organisations—to name but a few of the changes within the way people are already being “employed” as organisations are downsizing and restructuring to be more competitive. The workforce of the 21st century won’t expect to possess a lifelong relationship supported dependency with one employer. Instead, people will have a series of short-term relationships throughout their careers during which they contribute their knowledge and expertise in response to particular business needs. 

Contemporary Leadership development Trends and Technologies 

Looking at the bigger picture may be a good thing. We’re within the midst of a Fourth technological revolution, yet over the last decade or more, most leadership development programmes have remained stagnant. What is learnt how is it learnt, and who responsible for seeking learning opportunities, is very different from what it was  10 or maybe 20 years ago? 

If we want to remain relevant for the decade ahead, directors and business owners need to embrace transformations in every area of executive education and coaching. The following five areas hold significant promise as they become a reality in 2020 and beyond.

TREND 1: Pay attention to Applying new behaviour

For too long leadership development has been approached as a one-and-done experience. Many programmes take new managers, push them through an organization’s “academy,” then send them out to the real world. this approach does not work, as the rea world is very different from case studies found in the classroom. Not enough focus is put on sustaining knowledge in the long-term and applying that to the context of the business.

TREND 2: Mobile Learning for Millennial Managers

With the typical age of the first-time manager being 30, we’ve entered the age of millennial management; nearly 30% of Millennials hold managerial-level roles. Surveys from a spread of sources show that millennial managers value learning and growth experiences quite previous generations. they’re also 3 times more likely than the older generation to be responsible for their own re-skilling,. Yet, they need training and development provided in a different way. They have shorter attention spans are were brought up differently. They expect mobile access to learning opportunities, anytime, anywhere. Leadership development professionals must custom design their programmes in a different way to cope with this audience.

TREND 3: Group Coaching & Opening Up of Leadership Development

Traditionally, senior executives are given executive coaches and development via executive education schemes at elite universities alongside executive seminars and retreats. New managers are typically put through a leadership development workshop or seminar. Middle managers are largely forgotten. 

In this new decade, everyone must be a pacesetter who actively engages their people. Awareness of this may see leadership development pushed down through the organization, and training will become a typical part of every manager’s experience. 

But how will organisations afford it? One option would be to deliver group coaching experiences, through using a small group of executive coaches group of managers. This can happen on an ongoing basis so the coach can effectively support each manager’s needs every week.

TREND 4: Alignment to the Engagement Survey

Gallup research has shown that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is directly related to their manager. People join a corporation, but they leave their boss. One reason? What’s taught in leadership development classes and included in leadership competency models is usually very different than what’s measured in employee engagement surveys. 

Today we see that the use of employee experience and employee engagement are hotter than ever before. While most of the stress has been on measurement, leadership development professionals must also now realize that changing managerial behaviours is a priority. 

To promote employee engagement, it is clear just how important it is to show managers how to apply behaviours that unlock emotional commitment. Each organisation is different but, generally, managers got to learn specific behaviours such as: employing a coach approach to develop team members, giving effective timely feedback, providing strategic recognition, building trust, and fostering belonging.

What the Future Holds for Leadership Development

For companies that use the BCT approach, the fixed costs of talent development will become variable costs with measurable benefits. Large and centralised knowledge depositories of content and learning tools will ensure learning remains cost-effective. The ability to obviously specify the skill sets which new leaders need to attain through the training becomes more cost-effective.

Individual learners will enjoy a bigger array of more-targeted offerings than the present ecosystem of degrees and diplomas affords, with the power to credibly signal skills acquisition and skills transfer during a secure distributed computing environment. People are going to be ready to map personalized learning journeys that heed both the requirements of their organisations and their own developmental and career-related needs and interests. 

Increased competition will force incumbents to specialise in their comparative advantage, and that they must be mindful of how this advantage evolves because the BCT gains sophistication. We already see that the disaggregation of content and therefore the rise of “free agent” instructors has made it possible for brand spanking new entrants to figure directly with name-brand professors, thus diminishing the worth that a lot of executive education schemes have traditionally provided.

Business schools will have to rethink and redesign their current offerings to match their particular capabilities for creating teachable and learnable content and for tracking user-specific learning outcomes. they have to determine themselves as competent curators and designers of reusable content and learning experiences during a market during which organisations will need guidance on the simplest ways of developing and testing for brand spanking new skills. Given the high marginal and opportunity costs of on-campus education, business schools should reconfigure their offerings toward blended and customised programs that leverage the classroom only necessary.

Meanwhile, newcomers in leadership development are benefiting significantly from the distributed nature of the BCT—cherry-picking content, modules, and instructors from across the industry to create market offerings for client organisations. 

It is clear that the future of leadership development and executive education will deliver more value to learners through customised content and new teaching approaches. Learning in a away becomes a one to one approach where education providers ensure that material is customised to provide maximum value to individual learners. The question remains on where we as a sector can ensure that new skills and capabilities acquired through learning can be applied to the organisation as required and new leaders and managers can hit the ground running. At GEBS we have already started this process by ensuring that each learner receives individually focussed, on the job coaching in order to seamlessly integrate learning onto the business.  

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