What does it mean to lead with vision?
That’s the question on our minds as we head into 2024, and you’ve probably thought about it, too. We talk so much about the importance of outstanding leadership, but we must remember the other piece of that puzzle: getting people ready to take on and succeed in leadership roles. This is where leadership development mixes into the equation. Without a strong strategy for leadership development (LD), how can we expect our leaders to meet today’s challenges?
LD is more vital than ever with the work environment rapidly evolving. Unsurprisingly, leadership challenges are also sprouting, making investing in internal leadership development especially significant. This investment in people ensures leaders effectively guide their teams to success and allows employees to visualize a long-term future at their organizations. Leading with vision heightens worker satisfaction, increases productivity, and promotes employee retention; it simply translates to being the type of leader who leads an organization to its next horizon.
Current Leadership Challenges
Today’s changing workplace needs often leave leaders insufficiently trained or poorly supported to adequately meet demands. According to research from Gartner, a significant majority – 75% – of HR leaders say the managers on their teams today are overwhelmed by the recent shift and expansion of their job responsibilities. Similarly, 73% of those leaders also admit that those they manage (and other leaders) aren’t properly equipped to steer necessary change.
What is even more daunting, however, is that the ‘traditional’ ways of addressing these gaps may no longer be enough. The typical approach is to implement skills training, but the challenges faced by today’s leaders go well beyond the deficiencies a skills seminar will address. Gartner’s research highlights some sobering statistics about the current landscape:
- An average manager has 51% more responsibilities than they can effectively manage.
- 1 in 5 managers would prefer not to be people managers at all.
- Only half of employees say their managers treat them empathetically and fairly.
- 59% of managers say they spend significant time on ‘work to do work’ or handling the processes surrounding a job rather than the job itself.
In today’s workplace, leaders and their managers often find themselves struggling to strike a balance between incorporating emerging technologies and maintaining, or even improving, human connections. The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and hybrid work makes tech-savviness an essential leadership trait. It also increases the significance of balancing these tech skills against the need for the high emotional intelligence required to engage the human aspect of a thriving workplace culture. According to a survey of 1,300 L&D leaders from Harvard Business Publishing:
- 46% anticipate a greater need to adapt to the penetration of emerging technologies, like generative AI.
- 48% say there will be a greater need to ensure productivity and business growth amid the growing adoption of gig, hybrid, and dynamic work models.
- 31% say that building a diverse/inclusive culture remains a top challenge, and 30% say the same about driving employee motivation/inspiration.
These statistics clearly highlight the shifting sand under leaders’ feet and that the leadership methods that have sustained organizations in the past simply won’t bolster future success. Modern leadership must evolve, implying significant flexibility and willingness to relearn and reconsider what leadership looks like. CHROs and other top HR leaders must look at ways to set examples across an organization and determine what they and their teams truly need most.
Evolving Leadership Itself
These challenges are fundamental, and the way to address them must be visionary. CHROs and other HR leaders can guide managers to greater success by evolving the very idea of management itself rather than investing more time and money into skills-based development tactics.
Managers are more likely to thrive when they feel empowered and clear about their expectations. Gartner found that managers are 1.4 times more likely to find their jobs navigable when their organizations focus on resetting role expectations to focus on what managers are best positioned to do. Managers are also more successful when leaders allow them to simplify and streamline managerial tasks with a laser focus. Giving managers, or prospective managers, more latitude to discover their fit for leadership roles makes it 2.3 times more likely that they’ll find their jobs manageable, and organizations that focus on positive habit-building practices improve job manageability by 71%.
What does all this have in common? It’s geared at taking a new view of HR professionals as true strategy drivers rather than ‘support’ staff. Human resources is a robust profession with evidence-based and data-centric practices integral to achieving organizational goals. As HR is taken out of its silo and more thoroughly integrated into the business area, it requires leaders who model and emphasize traits like agility and flexibility. Today’s HR function must be responsive to change. The engine drives transformation for the most essential component of any organization: its people.
Top leaders must work together to determine their strategic vision. Who comprises the HR role? What is its purpose? How does it deliver value? How does it contribute to success? These questions all tie back to one core thing: a sense of purpose. Developing tomorrow’s leaders requires today’s leaders to be purpose-driven—they must build a culture suffused with an all-powerful sense of purpose.
This can feel like a tall order for CHROs and other top leaders, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. HR professionals are already flexible, thoughtful, and driven individuals well-equipped to manage and propel the evolving changes required for organizational success. These goals are within reach – a meaningful evolution rather than a patchwork of ‘skills training,’ the development of a flexible talent pipeline to meet future needs, and an approach to technology that keeps the ‘human’ in human resources. With this forward-looking approach, leaders can be more confident than ever that the future of our nation’s organizations is in safe hands.
By Ruben Moreno
About the Author
After a 25-year career in Corporate Human Resources and HR Executive Search, Ruben Moreno and his two partners co-founded Blue Rock Search based on a simple but ambitious vision of creating a firm that would “Change Lives and Organizations One Relationship at a Time.” Ruben leads the Blue Rock HR & Diversity Executive Search practice specializing in the identification, assessment, recruitment, and onboarding of Chief HR Officers and Chief Diversity Officers and their respective teams — inclusive of leaders in Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, HRBP’s, Learning & OD, HR Technology, HR Operations, and HR Analytics. Ruben has helped place hundreds of HR Executives and built deep relationships within the CHRO community across multiple industry verticals. His clients consider him a trusted partner who takes the time to understand their business and add value beyond executive search.