Leaders must not neglect their own development

In a fluctuating economic context, it is is crucial that leaders are supported and well-equipped through a well-defined executive development programme.

Fluctuation is a normal part of any national economy, but the UK economy has seen more alarming change than usual in recent months. Whilst we have narrowly avoided a recession at the end of 2022, according to the latest figures from the ONS, the economy remains stagnant. As the UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt put it, “we are not out of the woods yet” with regards to potential upcoming dips in economic growth. 

The prognosis for British businesses is complex.The economy may be steadily recovering, but given an uncertain future, many are proceeding with caution. Executives are under significant pressure to deliver on a whole host of success metrics to ensure that their businesses weather the storm. Leaders must make time for their own development in the midst of this turbulence if they are to steer their businesses through 2023 to what is predicted to be a stronger economic outlook in 2024. 

A problem shared is a problem halved
Chief executives are no strangers to upheaval; throughout their career every leader has inevitably had their fair share of difficult moments to overcome. Whilst leaders will invariably have a certain degree of empathy for leaders in other businesses, the issues that executives have to tackle typically vary significantly depending on the industry.

Yet, right now, leaders are facing similar setbacks. All leaders across every industry are focused on surviving an economic downturn which shows no signs of rapid improvement. It’s lonely at the top – leaders are often solely responsible for making mission-critical decisions under pressure from a variety of stakeholders. The current economic downturn only adds to the demand on executives, as it lingers in the background of every aspect of the decision making process. 

The benefit of a shared challenge is that solutions can also be shared. For instance, even though executives may need to have the final say on business-critical decisions, they certainly shouldn’t be alone in making these decisions. It is crucial that they are supported and well-equipped through a well-defined executive development programme, now more than ever. 

Power skills: Mission critical in today’s enterprise
Leaders rarely ring-fence time for their own professional development. They may encourage learning and development in the lower ranks of their organisation, but often inadvertently forget about themselves in this domain. This occurs despite the evidence that leaders experience greater success when focusing on their development; for example, 91% of leaders reported an increase in goal attainment through executive coaching. Executives simply cannot afford to carry on this way. 

Success in business increasingly depends on power skills. Power skills, otherwise known as soft skills, are the all-important people skills that are a huge asset in today’s workplace: communication, emotional intelligence, and strategic thinking to name but a few. According to Reuters, calling these attributes soft skills too often discredits their importance and undermines the difficulty in mastering them. Renaming them to power skills exemplifies the real value that they hold in today’s enterprise, highlighting the need for executives to prioritise their development.

Research from Pearson finds that the five most sought-after skills both now and in the short-term future are all power skills. These skills are vital, both in encouraging business growth and ensuring that stakeholder needs are met. This is especially true in the current moment of economic crisis, as businesses need strong leadership more than ever. When organisations are fighting to remain afloat, it’s those with well-rounded executive teams which will reap the benefits.

Unlocking leadership potential through executive coaching
Power skills are notoriously difficult to train. They differ from technical skills, which can often be acquired through e-learning or taught by colleagues in the flow of work. Given that power skills are behavioural, they require a long-term, collaborative approach between a leader and another individual to support their development.

Many leaders choose to work with an executive coach to nurture their power skills. When embarking upon an executive coaching programme, leaders are paired with an expert coach who is also a seasoned senior leader. This means that they know what it takes to lead a business – because they’ve done it before. The executive can then work on the unique challenges they are facing, giving them a space to rise above their day-to-day priorities and focus on their own personal development. Their coach will regularly provide them with the unbiased feedback that they need to activate growth both personally and professionally.

Ultimately, executive coaching gives leaders the dedicated time that they need to enhance their leadership ability. Equally, it allows leaders to discuss their challenges with an expert, thus alleviating some of the loneliness that they feel during the decision making process. Engaging in this type of programme can be useful at any time during a leader’s journey, but especially during a time of increased pressure like an economic downturn. By starting the work today, executives can gain benefits not only for their business right now, but for their future self and career progression.


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    6 December 2023


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