Leadership Development Framework for the Future: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Leadership Development Framework for the Future: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

No organization wants to be scarce on leadership. While each one is striving for the best leadership practices and performance, there remains considerable confusion about what it should look like. After all, “ideal leadership” can rarely hold a static definition. A leader needs to be adept at multiple domains and industry-specific focus areas. To make things more complicated, leadership development takes on many paths. There’s no set or best way out, and different teams adopt different routes. For L&D leaders, we can narrow down the issue to a couple of questions: 
  • What do we mean by leadership?
  • How do we develop this leadership?
The answer to both these questions lies in an effective leadership development framework that not only defines but also puts in place the actions needed to achieve your goals. Let’s understand leadership development frameworks and how you can build one. What’s more? We will also discuss the most common mistakes you need to avoid!
A leadership development framework is a structured and systematic tool for developing leadership skills and individual competencies. It serves as a guide or blueprint for organizations to identify, nurture, and set the leadership potential of their employees. The framework typically outlines a series of steps, processes, and activities designed to foster leadership growth at various levels within an organization. It derives objectives from understanding good leadership and what components you consider necessary.  Leadership development frameworks are the foremost tools among L&D professionals to ensure manager growth and development. While providing a broad framework for long-term development, it should be able to help managers solve the issues that arise every day, like handling team conflicts smoothly and balancing delegation. Ideal leadership development frameworks are adaptable and ensure that progress continues although the situation changes – 
  • Managers are often at different levels of growth and functions. Their needs are, thus, varied and context-dependent. 
  • The organization is often at different stages of maturity. The notion of leadership and available tools can change accordingly.

Let’s look at some leadership development framework examples to know more

  • Competency-Based Framework: Identifies and develops specific competencies deemed essential for leadership success within the organization.
  • Transformational Leadership Framework: Emphasizes inspiring and motivating followers to achieve their full potential and exceed expectations.
  • Leadership Pipeline Model: Maps out the leadership journey from individual contributor to executive roles, emphasizing the transition points and skills required at each stage.
  • Cohort-Based Leadership Programs: Brings together a group of leaders who progress through a development program together, fostering peer learning and collaboration.
  • Cultural Leadership Framework: Incorporates cultural values and norms into leadership development, aligning leadership practices with the organization’s culture.

Picture this: There are some new managers on your team. Now that there isn’t a single point of reference, leadership varies. 

One manager believes in being assertive. Their team often lacks clarity because they can hardly ask questions and make do with whatever information the manager provides them. On the other side of the table, the manager juggles too much. They find it hard to delegate things and end up doing a lot, often a bit too much themselves. 

Another manager takes a democratic approach to things. Every decision goes on the table with a brainstorming session to follow it. Sometimes, things go alright. But when they don’t, no one is held accountable because everyone made the decision. Some team members feel that their voices are not heard, while others are tired of meetings that could have been emails. 

In the middle of this chaos, the meaning of leadership is lost. For every individual, it means something different. If you were to manage this situation, how would you go about it? Let’s try to put a leadership development framework in place:  First things first, the leadership development framework defines leadership for your team. The leadership philosophy typically comes from the founding team or the senior brood of leaders, codified into behaviors and actions for the organization to aspire for. In this instance, the organization believes in a purposive leadership style – an adaptable route focusing on goals. So, it urges the managers to change ways of doing things as per the situation instead of sticking to their comfort zone. A set definition gives clarity on what to do. Second, the leadership development framework prepares managers before putting them on the field. It is evident in the case of both managers that they did not receive adequate training. As a result, they depend on their management style and know-how to work things around. A framework for leadership development would curb this by identifying and grooming potential leaders within the organization. It creates a pipeline of people ready to jump to the next level and reduces risks during leadership transitions.  Third, leadership development frameworks improve performance across the board. An effective leadership development framework ensures managers are familiar with the essential skills and deal with challenges well. It helps create an incredible culture that maximizes engagement and retention. Such alignment across the team translates into a competitive edge. Lastly, leadership development frameworks enhance manager effectiveness and retention. A manager’s performance is often the key to results for their team. As per SHRM, 57% employees believe that training managers could result in improvement across the board. By not doing this, organizations lose potential. Providing opportunities for leadership development also demonstrates a commitment to employee growth and can contribute to higher levels of job satisfaction and engagement. 
Before jumping on to a list of what to include in your leadership development framework, let’s build some conceptual clarity: what should you think of while shaping up your organization’s leadership development framework?

Diving deep in context 

Your approach to leadership can vary based on where you are. You might need your team to suggest ideas for a creative decision and then narrow down on the best option. On the other hand, an organization facing stiff and sudden competition would need to focus on a quick and data-driven approach to decision-making. These differences are evident in your organization’s leadership philosophy and trickle down in your leadership development framework.

Made for your needs 

A framework to develop leaders in your organization should take care of your circumstances. That includes thinking of where you operate, your most common challenges, your vision, how many people the typical manager is dealing with, and what resources you have. Without this basic question-and-answer exercise, you risk inconsistent ideas taking over leadership development.

Adaptable, accessible, and scalable for many use cases 

Organizations evolve, and people change, and so does the framework. Within your team, not all managers will have the same set of cookie-cutter challenges. Instead, problems will differ, and so will the learning styles. The best mediums to help these people out cannot be one-size-fits-all. Thus, a leadership development framework needs to be adaptable. Accessibility is another concern to ensure such resources reach everyone in your organization. Frequently, individuals from historically marginalized identities or those handling multiple responsibilities are unable to avail of such programs. Moreover, as your organization grows, you need to consider maintaining scale consistency. Your framework should be able to expand to include more people while keeping the basic tenets the same.  

Aligns with long-term goals

A leadership development framework is an interesting tool in the sense that it incorporates both long-term and short-term plans. For L&D professionals, ensuring that the leadership development framework aligns well with the organization’s long-term objectives, including the cultural and functional aspects, is crucial. At the same time, it should supplement succession planning and train a new level of leaders to take charge as another leaves. While doing this, the framework should enable managers to solve regular and recurrent team challenges. An effective leadership development framework hinges on three key components: 

Competency framework

A competency framework is a structured set of competencies or skills, knowledge, and behaviors required for effective performance in an organization’s particular role or job. These frameworks guide identifying, assessing, and developing the capabilities individuals need to excel in their positions. Competencies can encompass technical skills, interpersonal skills, leadership qualities, and other attributes contributing to a specific role’s success. 

Assessment and evaluation tools 

Assessment and evaluation tools refer to instruments and methodologies used to measure and analyze various aspects of an individual’s performance, skills, and competencies. These tools are essential for gauging the effectiveness of training programs, identifying areas for improvement, and making informed decisions about talent development.
  • 360-Degree Feedback Surveys: Collecting feedback from multiple sources, such as peers, subordinates, and supervisors, to provide a comprehensive view of an individual’s performance.
  • Performance Appraisals: Formal reviews conducted by supervisors to assess an employee’s achievements, strengths, and areas for development.
  • Skills Assessments: Evaluating a person’s proficiency in specific technical or soft skills relevant to their role.
  • Psychometric Tests: Assessments designed to measure cognitive abilities, personality traits, and other psychological factors.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Quantifiable metrics measure an individual’s performance against specific objectives and goals.

Leadership development plans for individuals/groups 

Leadership development plans are personalized strategies designed to enhance the leadership skills, knowledge, and effectiveness of individuals or groups within an organization. These plans typically involve a systematic approach to identifying development needs, setting goals, and implementing targeted activities.
Let’s break down the creation of the Leadership Development Framework into its planning, action, and after-stages to understand it better. 

The Planning Stage: Crafting the Foundation

  • Define Organizational Leadership Criteria: Identify the unique characteristics and competencies that define effective leadership within your organization. Collaborate with key stakeholders, including HR, executives, and department heads, to understand organizational priorities. At this point, a few questions that you might want to answer include: 
  • What does good leadership look like in your organization?
  • What skills and competencies contribute to good leadership? 
  • What are your challenges and context of operation?
  • What do your participants think about leadership development programs? 
Beyond the questions, a few key steps to take before kickstarting a leadership development framework include: 
  • Assess Existing Leadership Skills: Conduct assessments or surveys to understand the current leadership landscape. Identify gaps and areas for improvement in the skills and competencies of existing managers.
  • Understand Preferred Learning Modes: Analyze the most effective and preferred learning modes for your managers. Consider workshops, coaching, e-learning, or a combination based on individual preferences.
  • Context and Challenges Analysis: Evaluate the organizational context, challenges, and external factors that may influence leadership development. Consider budget constraints, time limitations, and any specific challenges unique to your industry or company.
  • Gather Participant Feedback: Seek input from potential participants to understand their expectations and preferences. Use surveys or focus groups to capture insights and understand the mediums most likely to deliver results. 

The Action Stage: Building the Framework

  • Prepare Building Blocks: Define the core elements of your leadership development program. It means selecting the skills and improvement areas you will work on. Based on this, you can include training modules or components addressing identified competencies.
  • External vs. Internal Resources: Determine the balance between utilizing external and internal expertise. Some resources might be available in-house, but some areas are best covered with subject matter experts – so L&D professionals should look to balance both and ensure quality. 
  • Flow of Progress: Outline the sequential flow of the leadership development program. Ensuring a logical progression helps in alignment with organizational goals.
  • Track Engagement and People Factors: Establish metrics to track engagement and participation as the program progresses. Consider factors like motivation, collaboration, and communication skills, which can tell how your employees have received the framework. 

The After Stage: Measuring Effectiveness and Feedback

  • Measuring Effectiveness: Define key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of the leadership development program. These KPIs should not be restricted to the functional areas alone; make sure that you create an all-around criteria that tracks essential elements like improved leadership competencies, team performance, and employee satisfaction.
  • Seeking and Incorporating Feedback: In the end, remember that we may not get everything right initially. And that’s perfectly fine. The best way to ensure your leadership development framework keeps evolving and growing is to incorporate the feedback of the people who will be a part of it. In addition to the feedback from the top-level stakeholders, implement a feedback mechanism to gather participant insights.
  • Refining the framework: Use this feedback to refine and enhance future iterations of the leadership development framework. Remember that the in-demand leadership skills, your organizational context, and the level of maturity of the leaders you are working with also change. Hence, some evolution is needed as the framework goes through many rounds.
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Value of the Leadership Development Industry
Yet, impact remains a question mark. Here’s why –

Ignoring the context of people and your organization 

Again and again, we have noted that not all managerial problems are made alike. Hence, the solutions to these problems must also be unique. Yet, most organizations stick to training not tailored to their needs. Sitting in a training session that does not resonate with you and instead keeps you up when you could be doing something else does not help – it only makes the employees even more disinterested. Overlooking the importance of aligning leadership development initiatives with the organizational culture leads to specific contextual challenges. As a result, only about 20% of the skills or knowledge taught in leadership training programs is transferred into new leadership habits, even when leadership development remains among the most highly invested areas within L&D for organizations.

Isolating Leadership Development from Daily Work

When leadership development is isolated, leaders struggle to apply newly acquired skills in real-world scenarios. There’s a risk of a disconnect between theoretical knowledge gained in training sessions and the practical demands of their roles.  Underestimating the value of peer-to-peer learning and collaboration in leadership development adds to this disconnect. It leads to a lack of immediate relevance and applicability, hindering the effectiveness of the development efforts. Not holding managers and leaders accountable for their development and the development of their team members also contributes to this.

Not planning for every type of leader in your organization

When asked about leadership development, 83% of organizations agreed it is essential at every level. However, only 5% have fully implemented development at all levels. Oftentimes, frontline and mid-level managers do not receive adequate attention and support. While it may seem unnecessary at first glance, the opposite is quite the case because these managers are the ones who deal with most employees at a very close level. This results in leadership gaps and succession risks when the top layer of executives leaves. In addition, leadership development frameworks often do not account for the diverse needs of people from marginalized backgrounds. As they may not be able to put in extra hours or take up expensive programs, leadership development frameworks have an exclusionary nature.

💡 For every $10 spent on senior leaders, only $1 is spent on frontline leaders.

Source: Inside HR

Lack of Measurement and Evaluation

After so much furor, nothing happens. Evaluation of leadership development programs is inconsistent. It starts and ends with learner feedback for 77% of programs, and 73% of them take completion statistics. Only 50% collect information on how learning points have been understood. Dropping further, only 31% collect data from learners on how they have applied their learning.  As a result, much of the effort cannot be tracked, and the scope for progress and improvements is lost over time. Leadership development requires a top-down commitment. Lack of involvement from senior leaders may result in a lack of organizational buy-in, reducing the program’s overall effectiveness.

Failure to Adapt to Changing Needs

Failure to adapt to changing needs in leadership development occurs when organizations maintain a static or inflexible approach to their leadership programs. It happens when you stick to outdated content, ignore emerging leadership trends, or overlook the organization’s evolving needs. For L&D professionals of the 21st century, it is essential to keep track of the changes around them – how much will AI impact your managers and the workplace? What tech do your managers need to know? How can your managers cope with the global landscape better? – all of these need to be thought about and put into action. Read more: Finding The Missing Pieces: What Makes Leadership Training Successful A leadership development framework serves as a strategic roadmap for cultivating and enhancing organizational leadership skills. In a scenario where leadership styles vary and individual managers struggle with distinct challenges, a thoughtful framework becomes the beacon that defines leadership for the entire team. The impact extends beyond individual performance, influencing team dynamics and organizational culture and, ultimately, contributing to a competitive edge. However, some mistakes hinder the effectiveness of leadership development initiatives. In essence, a well-crafted leadership development framework is not just a tool but a commitment to continuous improvement, aligning with the organization’s long-term goals and ensuring leadership excellence at every level. Risely, the manager’s buddy on the path of success understands this commitment and goes above and beyond to help your management professionals excel. With many exciting features, including daily nudges, an AI coach named Merlin, and toolkits and assessments to empower managers every day, Risely is the beloved guiding hand of 9 out of 10 managers. Join a new paradigm of leadership development for your team today with a free 14-day trial!

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Author: Deeksha Sharma

Deeksha, with a solid educational background in human resources, bridges the gap between your goals and you with valuable insights and strategies within leadership development. Her unique perspectives, powered by voracious reading, lead to thoughtful pieces that tie conventional know-how and innovative approaches together to enable success for management professionals.

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