New RSM programme develops Values-Based Leadership

03 March 2016

In addition to building a company’s mission, vision and solid strategies, leaders are increasingly challenged to bridge their goals with those of their people. A new two-day programme by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) aims to help leaders create a shared sense of purpose, guiding them to truly inspire their workforce, at the end of the line fostering organisational commitment and productivity.

For decades, leadership has been one of the most debated topics in the world of management. Leaders are by many seen as the fundament and a key success factor of every organisation, with many empirical studies showing that companies with great leaders flourish. Skilful leaders with a vision can lift companies to a higher level. Yet, over the years the realm of leadership has been facing change – the rise of new trends and technologies, as well as changing perceptions of new generations, means that, just as any other line of business, leadership is adapting to its new environment.

While leadership traditionally revolved around having a clear-cut strategy, with a hierarchical mode of operating and a solid governance underpinning it to ensure execution, the globe’s new way of doing business pleads for more. Leaders these days need to lead their organisation through a rapidly changing and heated landscape, bringing capabilities such as innovation, agility and collaboration more to the forefront. These leaders face a varied and more fragmented talent pool – for example, generations X and Y have diverging views of purpose in work and career aspirations compared to baby boomers.

A sense of meaning
The main result, according to analysts, is that the traditional “carrot-and-stick leadership” that has dominated successful boardrooms for generations is losing its sustainability. Closer alignment between corporate objectives with the ideals and beliefs of the current and next generation workforce is needed, and this line of thought has stood at the basis of the recent rise of ‘Values-Based Leadership’.

“People increasingly seek meaningful work, and speaking to this desire for meaning is of great importance to leaders' ability to inspire engagement and a sense of ownership,” says Daan van Knippenberg, professor of organisational behaviour at RSM. “This ability to imbue a sense of meaning in the work lies at the core of values-based leadership.”

Reducing unethical behaviour
The benefits of Values-Based Leadership are receiving growing attention globally, says Van Knippenberg, citing employee engagement as the main exponent. “Values-Based Leadership reduces employees’ temptation to act unethically and decreases their resistance to change, which creates employee engagement and commitment to the organisation.” This in turn can spark a plethora of indirect benefits, such as a committed workforce delivering higher-quality work, a higher willingness to adopt important cultural change, and a more creative and innovative mind-set. In particular the latter is playing a growing role in shaping the competitive outlook of organisations – and, according to research, the role of human capital such as employee engagement in combination with new technologies is becoming the top factor in the march to the top.

Mobilise and inspire people
Yet, as with all fresh perspectives, leaders across the board are struggling to embrace Values-Based Leadership. In a bid to support those seeking doing so, Van Knippenberg and his team at RSM have developed a specialised two-day programme aimed at helping managers grasp the phenomenon and bring their learnings into practice. The programme kicks off by showing participants how adopting a values-based leadership approach can bring benefits, both at a personal level as well as to the organisation, and subsequently provides managers the skills and tools to better mobilise and inspire people. “Participants will learn these principles and learn to translate them to their own practice,” says Van Knippenberg. “This way, they can start being authentic, and build credibility and legitimacy immediately.” 

The Values-Based Leadership programme is aimed at leaders and managers with a responsibility or desire to lead, motivate and inspire others. It draws on participants’ experience, so participants who are mid-level or senior level with at least five years’ experience in a management position will benefit most.

The first run of the Values-Based Leadership programme is scheduled to start on Wednesday 6 July 2016 and will take place on RSM’s campus in Rotterdam. The two-day programme by RSM Executive Education is taught in English.


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.