Leadership Connected: The changing role of leadership

07 March 2016 Consultancy.uk

Schouten Global, an international consultancy that focuses on human capital development, has launched a large research programme into the effects of leadership on employee engagement. A survey has been opened for input – professionals across organisational ranks are invited to participate, with the results set to be released in the summer.

Rapid changes to the business ecosystem, as disruptive technologies and new business models take hold, as well as changes to employment market demographics, as millennials become the dominant group, may see radical changes to what makes for effective leadership. Coupled with growing competition and added complexity in value chains, it goes beyond doubt that leaders currently face a batch of upped or even new strategic challenges that demand for a new set of management capabilities, including a more holistic view of world, a more out of the box view to drive innovation, as well as a focus on agility and speed of execution.

Impacting the field of leadership

The social side of leadership too is in a state of flux, as generational differences challenge the ways employees want their leaders to perform. The need for improved value alignment between businesses and millennials requires leaders to inspire cooperation and inclusiveness in which the (social) ambition of the organisation and its staff becomes more ever important for engagement. To stay on top of the game, leaders will need to garner the capacity to bind together the aims of a variety of stakeholders, including clients, suppliers, staff and shareholders for sustainable growth.

Leadership Connected!
To understand how the changing nature of leadership is bearing on employees and organisational performance, Schouten Global, an advisory and training firm specialised in professional development and soft skills, has launched the research programme ‘Leadership Connected!’. The study builds on a proprietary model developed by the consultancy, which consists of 16 dimensions across seven building blocks. Among the key areas taken under scrutiny are engagement with work, job crafting, job demands (e.g. workload) and the manner with which professionals deal with workplace stress.

Key objective of the study is to map the effects of leadership on the different building blocks, and in turn how these impacts influence performance. Conversely, gaps between actual performance and benchmarks reveal the improvement opportunities that can be mapped out, and through a tailor made report participants are given valuable insights into the matter.

Leadership connected

The study focuses on a mix of audiences. In the case of leaders, their participation provides an angle from the top, as well gives them a 360 degree view of how their leadership style influences the views of their teams. Professionals on the work floor are stimulated to participate with the survey as it offers the researchers views in how perceptions of what makes great leaders is changing, while from their perspective it sheds light on their own case and manners how they could advance their own engagement.

Professionals interested in participating with the study can access the survey on this page.

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

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.