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Building leadership at all levels is a priority for 2022

Jackie Kennedy, Founder - LeadMe Academy

Picture your company’s organogram. Most likely it is based on a hierarchical model, where each role is represented by a system of boxes and lines. But with the pandemic waking businesses up to the fact that they need to be more agile, are traditional organisational structures still relevant?

There are a number of reasons why a top-down approach no longer serves today’s or even tomorrow’s businesses. For starters, relying on a handful of leaders at the very top makes it harder for the organisation to respond to changes in the market and therefore far less resilient. Just think about how your company responded at the start of the COVID-19 crisis and whether this could have been handled more swiftly and efficiently, along with the knock-on effects this has had on the business.

Additionally, individuals at the top tend to stick to the status quo which stifles both talent and creativity. If you’ve ever heard yourself or your higher-ups say, ‘but this is the way we’ve always done things’, then you might be in trouble.

While the founder might understand the business best, one individual doesn’t know everything. All businesses have to contend with competitors, clients that change over time and market forces, so ideas and input from the people who are working on the ground is essential. In fact, 44% of Fortune 500 companies say that diversity in the workplace (which includes diversity of thought and experience) increases innovation and agility[1], while 51% state that this enhances employee engagement[2] – the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals. In the era of the Great Resignation, which has seen 60% of South Africans terminating their employment between April and October 2021[3], employee engagement is essential.

Something clearly needs to change within our companies. The old way is no longer working. We need to move to a world of work where the corporate ladder is out, and the jungle gym is in (at least for organisations that want to embrace rapid change). What this means is that employees are required to develop diverse skillsets and be agile enough to work on a range of projects. These skillsets can then enable different employees to lead different projects depending on who is best suited (based on their skillset). This requires developing employees with a set of leadership skills.

That said, we still need strong, flexible, and forward-thinking leaders at the top to provide direction. However, leadership is moving from tenure and title to a skill possessed that can be used when needed whereas in the past it was often based on length of service with a company. Often function experts became leaders despite not having the people skills or training to do so – one of the reasons why there is often a weak middle layer of leadership in companies. Nowadays, we need team members who can take the lead interchangeably – this is key for rate of change and for teams to solve problems or invent new products or services.

It has been reported that 86% of organisations with leadership development programmes can rapidly respond to adversity in an unpredictable business environment[4]. What’s more, leadership development results in a 114% increase in sales, 70% lower turnover, 71% higher customer satisfaction and 90% lower absenteeism[5]. Apply these programmes across the organisation and employers gain an even greater competitive advantage – higher productivity, a resilient and high-impact workforce, smarter resource management and increased revenue

In the wake of the pandemic and with the Great Resignation set to continue into 2022, these programmes need to be equipping leaders company-wide with soft skills when it comes to leading themselves, others and the organisation. These should include self-awareness, communication skills, resilience, stress management, flexibility along with strong problem solving and critical thinking skills.

The World Economic Forum is anticipating that 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 and that leadership will be one of the top 10 skills demanded in the future[6]. If companies don’t empower their employees with critical leadership skills, they will be left behind. After all, when individuals thrive, businesses do too.







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