The projections are clear — the labor market will remain tight for years to come and potentially tighten further. While talent retention is always important, even when the labor market is more favorable, the current realities make it absolutely imperative. So, what should business leaders focus on to remain competitive and thrive in the current marketplace?
The answer is leadership development.
The usual path for middle management is a few years of doing ground level work, followed by some promotions, and finally a modest leadership position. However, middle management rarely receives much formal leadership training on their path to leadership. And, once they are in their leadership role, the training remains sparse as they are perpetually busy keeping the day to day up and running.
Meanwhile, top level leaders receive a constant flow of leadership training. This leads to a disconnect between top level leadership and the actual trajectory of company culture. To bridge the gap, and ensure company success, more training for the leaders that lead the day to day operations is imperative. This is true for the success of a company’s overall leadership and the engagement of the whole workforce.
While genuine leadership development is rarely easy, with the right strategies leaders can accomplish this. Here’s a list of emerging leadership development trends for 2019.
With the daily responsibilities and duties middle managers face, it’s difficult to find time for serious leadership training. Meanwhile, middle management is in dire need of more leadership development.
Without the daily work that these managers put in, workflow is slowed significantly. Daily micro-learning can be an effective measure for enhancing leadership while not taking away from the daily flow of work. Because, micro-learning is skill development broken down int0 bite-sized chunks.
Many are often skeptical of daily micro-learning strategies and instead favor macro gestures that rely heavily on a single big event or bootcamp like course. These large scale events, while memorable, rely on an initial boom that inevitably goes bust as the realities of the daily grind return.
Micro-learning on the contrary works quite differently. Consider this — if everyday you improve yourself by 1%, by the end of the year you will be 37 times better than you were!
Not only do the strategies of small but consistent progress clearly hold power, but they also are easily integrated. Micro-learning strategies, unlike workshops or endless seminars, do not interrupt routine.
So, what does daily micro-learning look like?
Here’s an example: at the beginning of each day a manager receives a brief message including an aspect of leadership that they can utilize immediately. Leaders then commit to the task and confirm its completion at the end of the day — framing the day with a learning mindset.
Strategic daily actions
Often the best way to determine how to improve your leadership is simply ask those you lead. This is a strategy many organizations are beginning to employ with great success.
This involves sending out surveys asking ground level workers what they would like to see more of from their managers and what they like about them currently. This can often shed light on uncomfortable realities, but it is best that they are faced sooner rather than later.
Once the insights have been gathered from the surveys management can begin putting them into action. By taking common themes from these surveys, a strategy can be formed around concrete actions management can perform that will demonstrate more effective leadership in the eyes of the front line workers.
With these concrete actions in mind leaders can break up the actions into bite sized pieces. These bite sized actions then don’t require much time from the managers, but the effects can be enormous.
Positive psychology is a relatively new field of psychology that seeks to focus on maximizing human strengths utilizing the best scientific methodologies. This stands in contrast to the rest of the field of psychology — which is usually focused on mitigating weakness rather than supporting existing strengths.
For those seeking leadership development strategies, positive psychology is a gold mine. Positive psychology offers an array of actionable insights that focus specifically on the issues facing leaders and their development.
For leadership development, positive psychology suggests that leaders focus on both their own growth and the personal growth of those they lead. This means fostering a mindset more akin to that of a coach rather than a ‘manager.’ As General Grace Hopper said, “you manage things, but you lead people.”
This points to our next trend: servant leadership
It seems obvious, but it is often neglected — any leadership development program should pay special attention to the type of leadership being developed. The strategy should look to the best available leadership styles. At ProHabits, we’ve discovered that the best leadership is servant leadership.
Servant leadership is exactly what it sounds like: a leadership style in which leaders put service first and outright direction second. It’s a leadership style that inspires others to become a leader in their own right and doesn’t exist to serve any one person’s ego, but instead pursues the growth of the whole team.
Not only does servant leadership better engage employees, but it also helps advance the growth of leadership.
For middle management to be effective leaders, they must be standard bearers for organizational culture. This means that they don’t just repeat the values and organization professes, but actually live them every day.
Knowing how to tangibly live organizational values in everyday operations can be ambiguous, however. This is why leadership development strategy should lay out specific behaviors that align with organizational values that leaders can actively pursue.
For example, maybe one value an organization holds is inclusion. Without context ‘inclusion’ is a rather vague term that could mean different things to different people. This can be fixed by offering specific actions that managers can take part it in. This could be making a point of chatting with someone who is normally left out, or taking advice from people who are not often heard.
What actions constitute a value is ultimately up to an organization’s top leaders. However, the important things are that the actions are outlined, known throughout the organization, and practiced consistently.
All the strategies listed above are an integral aspect of ProHabits’ leadership development process. Our strategy begins by uncovering the unique leadership needs of your team. Then, utilizing the insights of positive psychology, we identify key actions that middle management can engage in to leverage strengths and enhance performance. Finally, daily actions are automatically sent to your team.
The result is transformed teams with sustained results.