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Bridging the Leadership 'Gap' If organizations retain the best brains, they will be able to create the engine for innovation.

By David Tessmann-Keys

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Today's business landscape continues to evolve at a blistering pace. Competition is growing more intense and organizations have to look out for new innovative approaches to ensure sustainability and to emerge as future leaders. By far, Talent is the most critical element of competitive advantage. But today, organizations are experiencing talent deficiencies within their employee base and leaders are now increasingly voicing their fears that the talent they have is not the talent they need.

David Tessmann-Keys, SVP - International Operations, DDI

Organizations can rapidly replicate the offerings/products of their competitors, but building a cadre of highly capable and engaged employees takes considerable effort and time. If organizations select and retain the best brains and unleash the potential of those brains through high levels of engagement, they will then be able to create the engine for innovation, drive for results and customer centricity. As "Knowledge Economy' takes hold, the talent issue has become even more relevant over time.

Role of a Leader

An organization is nothing more than a shadow of its leaders. They are the ones who set the tone both in terms of what are the organization's business priorities and strategies and how it will achieve them. A key element of a leader's role is to ensure smooth succession.

A leader has three roles to fulfil:

Model: A leader is a model of how they believe their people must behave in order to drive success.
Coach: He provides adequate guidance, developmental support and feedback to ensure that employees are clear on expectations and are moving in the right direction.
Reinforce: A leader actively celebrates and recognizes the achievements/efforts of both individuals and groups through numerous modalities.

Quality leaders in the top management team don't just affect the company's bottom line; they also affect employee retention, engagement and business efficiency. The higher the levels of staff engagement, the higher the stability of highly passionate people dedicated to the success of the organization.

The India Case

India has a long history of producing world-class leaders. Many Indian organizations are now taking "the criticality of talent to their business' success' seriously. The moment Indian organizations start realizing their aspirations, they will need more of the right kind of leaders. India has a deep pool of technically strong people, but they should equally possess strong leadership behavior.

Often organizations make a leader out of someone who is a good individual contributor, not realizing the fact that the skills and motivations can differ from individual to individual. For example, companies usually promote the "best sales person' to become the sales leader. However, the reality is that what makes a person a great sales person often makes them the worst of leaders.

The young Indian talent is hungry for rapid career progression and the "leader' title is seen as an aspiration. Many organizations, due to the fear of turnover risk commit the mistake of promoting talent too early without giving adequate consideration to the true leadership capabilities casting wrong shadow on others in the organization.

6 Ways to Build the Leaders of Tomorrow

Start Early, Reach Deeper: Talent must be managed actively for it to develop in the direction you need it to. To ensure a strong future pipeline, they need to start early and reach deeper in the lower leadership ranks (down to the front line) to start the process of hi-potential identification and acceleration.

Linking Leadership with Business Drivers: Leadership development process must be grounded in the context of the business priorities. Develop your people on the articulated success profile in order to automatically arm them with the specific capabilities required to better achieve the key drivers promoting success.

A 360-degree Approach: Develop the full person (personality, behavior, experience and knowledge). A leader with strong technical skills who has the ability to remain calm under stress (personality), remains open to feedback (personality), establish clear strategic direction (behavior); s/he creates a vision for people to follow (behavior) and that, by definition, shapes an effective leader.

Innovation Platform: Provide space for people to innovate. Create a "burning platform' for innovation within organization and provide people with adequate, tools, training and direction to achieve the desired results.

Ownership: Development of talent is not an HR responsibility. They support the process with tools, approaches etc. Hence, it must be owned by the executive and should cascade through each and every leader. The development of talent should be the first KPI on every leader's performance plan.

Measure: You cannot manage what you do not measure! Therefore, leaders should measure what change they want to see as a result of their leadership development and course correct as required.

David Tessmann-Keys

SVP- International Operations, Development Dimensions International (DDI)

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