Which Comes First: Developing Leaders or Achieving Strategic Initiatives?

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A recent survey of Vistage members asked that they identify the top three 2021 strategic initiatives in which their companies will be investing. Responses overwhelmingly recognized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) as the top priority. Second among larger companies was attracting, managing and up-leveling talent, and revenue growth was third.

Many companies list leadership development as a strategic initiative; in reality, that’s an inaccurate perception of how it should be woven into the fiber of your company. Rather than a priority that can be achieved over a year or two and checked off a list, leadership underpins the ability to achieve ALL initiatives.

Developing leaders is as critical to a successful business as cash flow and profit – an expression of the vision and mission of a business and the foundation upon which company culture is built. As a company shifts and grows, its leaders learn and change. Therefore, leadership development is an-ever evolving element that must be constantly nurtured.

Top 2021 Strategic Initiatives

The readiness of highly developed leaders are the keys to successfully achieving the top three strategic initiatives for 2021.

1. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

A recent Harvard Business Review article examined racism trends in business and various programs and efforts by companies to address DE&I. Often, little change was realized even with substantial investments of time, effort, and money. The reason? The author asserts that racism is structural – most programs don’t address subtle and persistent forms of bias – therefore “to dismantle structural racism in our organizations, we must change our cultures.”

This points to the need for leadership development because, for DE&I efforts to be effective, leaders need to be proficient at having uncomfortable conversations. To do this requires developing greater self-awareness including a recognition of blind spots in one’s own behavior, and how it contributes to current circumstances. There is a direct correlation between the development of soft-skill emotional intelligence and the top-tier performance associated with advanced leadership. This combination of competencies enables leaders to effectively lead uncomfortable conversations to a productive outcome.

2. Talent

There is a shortage of talent even though large numbers of aspirants have entered the market. This creates full spectrum issues associated with talent across the entire pipeline – acquisition, retention, and succession. One survey found that 81% of employees would consider leaving their current position for one that provides a better fit. Companies are scrambling to appeal to and win talent. Candidates are not focused on money alone but on opportunities for long-term, personal and professional development and growth. Many organizations are finding the offer of a dedicated professional coach, along with a comprehensive leadership development program, to be compelling, particularly to senior-level team members and their succession candidates.

3. Growth

As organizations navigate recovery from the pandemic, there’s no going back to the way things were. It will be necessary for businesses to re-assess where their market is, how it is different, and what today’s strategy must be to expand, engage and grow again in an altered environment. It is imperative that leadership teams synchronize to get new bearings and clearly understand and define HOW they will be work together to move forward. With so many variables having changed so rapidly, the fastest way to realign is to have an experienced coach come alongside the team, providing perspective and new tools.

Alignment Within the Leadership Sector

It has become obvious that these top three initiatives – or any strategic initiatives – cannot be accomplished effectively unless an organization’s entire leadership team embraces the same philosophy, core values, objectives, standards, and processes – and is headed in the same direction. A strong culture cannot be instilled or maintained without continuity of leadership – fragmentation within the leadership team means fragmentation within the organization. A company’s level of leadership development serves as a predictor of its likelihood of achieving critical initiatives and success in general.

Designed to elevate the effectiveness of leadership teams by facilitating cohesion and alignment, Velocity’s comprehensive Leadership Development Program yields clear direction, more effective collaboration, strategic decision making, rapid results, and greater productivity.

The CEO of a $17 billion corporation that has been working with Velocity for more than two years asserts that, “No matter the priorities, the only way to move an organization and its initiatives forward is to have better leaders. We would not have come through COVID nearly so well had we not had a focus on developing our leaders.”

About Velocity’s Leadership Development Program

Velocity’s Leadership Development Program includes behavioral assessments (leaders’ actual behavior and how they are experienced by others), online skill education, team dynamic work, team project alignment and tracking, one-on-one coaching, accountability tools, and use of leadership competencies for role and performance management. Developing leaders simultaneously through this program guarantees the ability to move forward and achieve initiatives. It will also enable early recognition of leaders that may be falling behind, and the opportunity to quickly adjust to keep leadership teams on track. I welcome the opportunity to discuss the specifics of how Velocity’s Leadership Development Program can transform your organization’s leaders and its future.