Grow Your People, Grow Your Organization

Rebecca Colwell

Rebecca Colwell

Rebecca is a leadership innovator, a thought leader in facilitative leadership and one of the world’s top two experts in Integral Facilitation. For the last decade, she’s been bringing her vision to life as the developer of the world’s premiere Integral facilitative leadership training, Integral Facilitator® and Next Stage Facilitation, with graduates in 5 continents.

The world is facing a growing leadership talent gap.  

More than ever, organizations need sophisticated, self-managing leaders able to thrive in complex and rapidly-changing professional environments. But demand for this type of talent vastly outpaces the supply.  

Several factors contribute to this gap, including the retirement of baby boomers, the rapid pace of technological advancements, and the evolving demands of the global business landscape. As experienced leaders retire, there is a need to fill their positions with capable successors who possess the necessary skills to navigate complex and rapidly changing environments.

Moreover, the demand for sophisticated, self-managing leaders who can lead effectively in dynamic and uncertain conditions often outpaces the supply of qualified candidates. In their 2023 report, Manpower Group says: “77% of employers report difficulty in filling roles – a 17-year high.”  

Organizations are continually seeking leaders who can foster innovation, drive agility, and adapt to emerging challenges. And if you cannot recruit and hire them, as highlighted in the trend of talent scarcity around the world, you need to grow them, and grow them quickly.

One strategy to drive greater leadership development in organizations is the explicit vertical development of its leaders. Vertical development of leaders refers to the process of cultivating and enhancing the cognitive, emotional, and psychological aspects of leadership. It involves fostering self-awareness, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, decision-making skills, and adaptability in leaders to help them become more effective and successful in their roles.

As coaches and a company working with leaders who are struggling with growing leadership within their organizations, we are convinced that leadership maturity – sometimes called vertical leadership development – is a top business priority and key to thriving organizations in the next decade.

Some of the most competitive and successful organizations have recognized the significance of leadership development and learning and have woven them into the very fabric of their operations. These organizations are known as “deliberately developmental” organizations, a term associated with the work of Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, who have extensively studied adult development and its implications for leadership and organizational success. 

Instead of viewing leadership development as an isolated program, these organizations integrate it seamlessly into their culture and values. They understand that investing in the growth and transformation of their leaders ultimately leads to long-term success, not just for the individual leaders but for the organization as a whole.

Organizations that prioritize developmental leadership approaches are forging pathways towards two key outcomes: Inner Agility and Organizational Diversity.

Inner Agility: Cultivating Trustable Inner Authority for Effective Leadership

In the realm of adult development, one of the key indicators of growth is the presence of a trustable inner authority. This inner authority serves as a source of value creation and is the foundation that allows individuals to initiate change from within, making individuals inherently self-directing and adaptive.

Have you experienced issues where managers or leaders in your organization lack this self-authoring capacity? 

Within the corporate landscape, some companies implicitly expect this inner authority from their leadership, while others fail to recognize its importance altogether. Two common mistakes are often made in this context: either presuming that leaders inherently possess these aptitudes, or cultivating an organizational culture overly reliant on external authority.

  • When leaders lack the support of trustable inner authority, they may find themselves overwhelmed in new and challenging situations, feeling hesitant to seek assistance or guidance. 
  • On the other hand, in environments where the chain of command is strictly enforced, leaders might feel disempowered, leading to disengagement from their work. This disengagement, in turn, affects the organization’s flexibility and responsiveness.

Developing trustable self-awareness and inner authority entails breaking free from dependence on managers or supervisors, while seeking guidance and mentorship from more experienced and diverse individuals or senior management. This approach fosters curiosity, broadens information gathering and assessment, even in situations where clear directions or instructions are lacking. 

By surveying a wealth of information, leaders with trustable inner authority can generate new and innovative directions and avoid being limited by biases and assumptions. They engage others in sense making, and are willing to experiment with novel approaches. 

Consequently, their responses become more adaptive and beneficial to themselves, their team members, and the overall organization.

Nurturing trustable inner authority and increased agility is a critical aspect of effective leadership. Leaders who possess this quality can function with greater autonomy, contribute to a more agile and responsive organizational culture, and ultimately drive positive outcomes for themselves and their teams. 

By recognizing the significance of inner agility and promoting its development, companies can unlock the full potential of their leadership and create a thriving and adaptable work environment.

The second key outcome arising from deliberately developmental approaches is diversity.

Organizational Diversity: Embracing Change and Leveraging Potential

In modern progressive cultures, diversity and inclusion is rightfully recognized as a pivotal initiative, creating more learning, signifying organizational maturity and a developmental achievement. 

Why is this so? 

Diversity revolves around acknowledging and valuing differences, which in turn drives meaningful change. Therefore, to genuinely embrace diversity is to welcome change itself.

In today’s fast-paced and dynamic business landscapes, organizations undergo significant transformations, causing anxiety for many, including leaders. Traditional or reactive stages of adult development value continuity, control and predictability, and often view diversity as a threat, leading to avoidance. This avoidance, unfortunately, results in leadership failures and organizational shortcomings. Change is reluctantly adopted, if at all.

On the other hand, nimble organizations, driven by robust leadership development, inherently foster a culture that welcomes diversity. Leaders approach differences and the changes they generate with an open mind and curiosity, confronting uncertainty head-on.

 

Ten Directions’ Vision for Senior Teams:

Think about the value of having leaders with better judgment, a clear vision, and the ability to handle themselves well. 

Now add to that the capacity for facilitative leadership, where the leaders skillfully engage across differences and facilitate foster a culture of collaboration, where employees feel empowered to contribute their unique insights and take ownership of their work, and where biases and blind spots are uncovered and challenged when important ideas are advanced. 

Imagine the benefits that come from having a leadership team that wholeheartedly welcomes diversity, stays curious, isn’t afraid of change or the unknown, and convene conversations and collaboration where people think creatively, push into new territory and adapt to new ideas, together.

How could this agility in leadership affect the overall success of the organization?

  • It unleashes untapped possibilities within the organization.
  • It leads to a culture that excels, especially in challenging situations.
  • It goes beyond organizational growth; it positively influences the well-being and success of individuals in the team.
  • It ensures long-term sustainability for the organization.

Amplifying these qualities impacts the overall success, business agility and bottom line of your organization.

Consider these four strategies to help you and your organization become more “deliberately developmental”.

 

Get Some Fresh Perspective: 

Encourage your leadership and management to take a step back from their daily routines, plans, and meetings. Instead of just looking at things from the inside, ask them to see their jobs and the organization from the outside. This will give them some insightful ideas for effective action.

Question the Unspoken: Time to dig deep! Find out the more hidden cultural assumptions your leadership team holds. Ask some out-of-the-box questions and challenge those hidden norms. Develop more advanced facilitative leaders to host open conversations to reflect on how things are done right now and what could be done better.

 

Embrace Change and Diversity: Do not insulate your organization from change. Train your management to be open and curious in the face of diversity. Difference creates contrasts. These contrasts enable leadership to take new perspectives on the organization and leverage new opportunities.

 

Invest in Growing Vertical Leadership Skills: Get your senior leadership thinking about the development. Deploy curriculum and mentoring to help new managers become more agile and capable in the face of fast pace change. Bring in developmentally-informed programs, training, coaching and consultants to help to make your leaders and mentors more agile and capable of working with fast-paced change and complexity. And most importantly, begin deploying strategies to help change the nature of the work they do day in and day out so that it is directly supporting and challenging people to develop new aptitudes for the future. 

As author Jennifer Garvey Berger said: “We need to evolve ourselves and our lives to keep up with the way the world is unfolding”. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the pressing need for self-directing leaders demands that organizations prioritize leadership maturity and development as a critical business imperative. 

Embracing a deliberately developmental approach involves encouraging fresh perspectives, challenging unspoken norms, embracing diversity and change, and investing in vertical leadership skills. By fostering a culture that integrates continuous learning and growth, organizations create a positive ripple effect, benefiting both individual leaders and the overall well-being and success of the entire organization. 

The question remains: Is your organization prepared to rise to future challenges and flourish in this ever-evolving landscape? Embracing deliberate development may be the perfectly shaped key to unlock your organization’s full potential and thriving in the dynamic professional world ahead.

If your senior team is inspired to grow together to unleash untapped possibilities within your organization, reach out to discuss how we can work together. [email protected]

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