Global service-based and team-oriented businesses are expanding rapidly, four generations are now in the workplace and social networks are ubiquitous in business and personal life. These modern facts of talent management life - among others - mean one of talent managers' most critical tasks is to ensure their organizations can successfully identify and integrate new leaders and unleash their potential.
Further, today's top-performing leaders need to add some new skills to their portfolios for long-term success. To promote the dynamic leadership development required to drive business results, talent managers need to understand the new trends in leadership and be proactive and focused when taking steps to attract, retain and develop strong and effective business leaders.
The Successful Leaders Makeup
In May, professional services firm Epoch partnered with talent management firm Focus Insights to conduct the "Epoch Financial Services Leadership Study" that included behavioral and motivational assessments of 200 financial services executives across various disciplines.
Study results revealed that strong leaders continue to score highly in their utilitarian motivation - the need to have every investment they make have a greater return in time or resources - and their high results-driven orientation. They also exhibit individualistic motivation - the need to advance to higher positions in life and to gain power by leading and directing others. According to Eduard Spranger, author of Types of Man, these two traits always have been present in successful business leaders.
However, the Epoch study shows an important and significant new trend. The social motivator, defined as a willingness invest one's own time and resources in helping others achieve their potential, is significantly higher than it used to be and is now common among almost all leaders surveyed. Further, leaders' proficiency in social motivation is significantly higher today than in surveys of the past 50 years.
Another characteristic of highly socially motivated individuals is their desire to eliminate hate and conflict in the world. That is more important than ever before in today's highly globalized marketplace. Modern leaders must manage resources in all parts of the world and be able to lead multiple generations in the workplace. For the first time in history, there are four - some say five - generations in the workforce with just as many different value systems, and all need to work collectively.
Understanding how to lead, manage and help these different groups achieve their full potential requires skills that were not necessary when only one or two generations worked together. Further, these larger and more diverse groups require that leaders possess far greater understanding on how to best manage and inspire them.
The study also revealed that gender is not a factor when evaluating a leader's social competency. Effective leaders, regardless of gender, all require demonstration of some level of competency in this new skill, and the range of proficiency is consistent across both genders. The business disciplines practiced by leaders also are not a factor; the presence of social motivation is consistent across all disciplines at the leadership level.
What It Takes
Effective leadership has as much to do with the presence of the right behaviors and motivators as it does with skills and experience. In other words, often leaders can transcend disciplines to effectively lead if they possess a combination of top motivators such as utilitarianism, individualism and social acumen.
These revelations can have a profound impact on the way companies identify employees' proclivity to demonstrate these behaviors. Recognition and identification of these behaviors in future leaders is the talent manager's first step in any effort to unleash new leaders' potential or to create the appropriate development opportunities to boost an organization's existing leaders.
There are many assessment tools in the marketplace that can help evaluate these motivators within an organization's hiring and development practices. These motivators affect an employee's entire life cycle, from recruiting - either internally or externally - to developing or integrating them and ultimately to retaining them.
From a recruiting standpoint, it is now more clear what a successful leader looks like. But assessment tools, when combined with traditional interview techniques, can help an organization evaluate a candidate's ability to demonstrate effective leadership attributes.Once on-board, the talent manager's understanding of an individual's and an organization's leadership motivators can significantly improve the chances a leader will be fully engaged and successful. Further, for a leader to thrive and realize his or her full potential, an organization must develop on-boarding protocols and development plans to help that person. These plans must work within the organization's culture and support consolidation of three primary kinds of motivators that make successful leaders:
a) Individualistic: The desire to direct and control, where individual advancement may be more important than other people.
b) Utilitarian: Rewards return on investment, talent and time - where wasted time, materials and resources create stress.
c) Social: A humanitarian drive and the desire to reduce pain and conflict, where too much emphasis on bottom-line results and an insensitivity to people will cause frustration in this leader.
This is a new leadership paradigm, and the individualistic and utilitarian motivators may seem to conflict with the social motivators at times. Understanding how to manage this in an organization is imperative to talent managers' success.
According to a recent study by Camdem Associates, 60 percent of new executives fail within 16 months. Organizations often don't understand how to integrate a successful leader or how to maximize his or her full potential. But when these two activities are combined successfully, great leadership potential can be unleashed.
Leadership Is Not a Skill One of the most profound and potentially controversial things revealed in the Epoch study is that organizations should focus less on skill sets and more on identifying great leaders and moving them around the organization. Promoting talent mobility enables high-potential leaders to experience challenges in related or perhaps completely different areas of the business, broadening their perspectives and expertise, and thereby increasing the value they can bring to an organization.
Great leaders can transcend disciplines. Some top performers have led a number of disciplines within their organizations because they have great leadership skills, not because they understood the skills required of any one particular group or role. A great leader can surround him or herself with talented direct reports who possess the right skills, but leadership itself is not necessarily a skill. Leadership is a combination of key behaviors and motivators inherent to an individual.
Some successful executives surveyed were in operations or marketing roles before moving into senior-level HR or talent management positions. Some began their careers in HR and then moved into line business roles. Development opportunities can help, but again, their success likely transcended their disciplines because they were great leaders to begin with.
The progressive organizations that recognize that successful leaders are transferable will create great companies and be able to successfully motivate and retain great leaders. Further, the trickle-down effect in the organization will act as an effective performance motivator and retention tool for these leaders.
Modern business leaders not only seek their own success but increasingly want to invest time and resources to help others - especially members of their own teams - to achieve their potential, as well. Since the newest generation in today's workforce is actively looking for mentors to help them achieve their full potential, they too will thrive working with these new leaders.
Managing talent with this new leader in mind helps promote fully engaged work teams and unleash any group's full potential to drive business results. And at the end of the day, that is what talent managers are responsible for doing: driving business results and increasing shareholder value.
Further, if talent leaders can do that and motivate individuals to seek out ways to accelerate their leadership savvy, they can create highly dynamic and highly functioning organizations to which great talent will be drawn. At a time when it is anticipated that all organizations will be facing tremendous talent gaps - the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a labor shortfall of 10 millions people during the next two to three years - the ability to acquire and develop great leaders will be an important differentiator for organizations looking to attract and retain the best talent.
First, for organizations seeking to hire great leaders externally, talent managers should embrace the tools available in today's marketplace to help identify the presence of key leadership behaviors and motivators. Combine those tools with traditional interview practices to help ensure the acquisition of great leaders.
If, on the other hand, it is more effective and efficient for an organization to look internally to identify individuals with great leadership power and potential, consider two things. First, organizations should use some of the tools available to evaluate leadership potential. Second, once the assessments are done, if great leaders are available, an organization should start moving them around. Their natural behaviors and motivators will transcend disciplines and the organization's culture, and more importantly, the organization's business results will benefit enormously.
Business leaders are evolving. They are not abandoning successful leadership criteria that worked in the past, but the requirements for success have become far more complex in today's global, multigenerational environment. Talent managers' ability to seek out these new leaders and integrate them effectively into an organization can have tremendous value and help organizations realize their strategic business goals.
Ref: Linda Stewart
[About the Author: Linda Stewart is CEO, president and founder of Epoch LLC, a provider of independently employed financial service executives and professionals. ]