Executive leadership team development – are you building more lone wolves or an adaptive wolf pack?
How do you create a dynamic within the executive leadership team that sets the tone, pace and cultural norms for the broader organisation? As we know too well; as goes the leadership team, goes the organisation.
But are we focussing our executive leadership development on the wolf or the wolf pack?
Traditionally companies have looked to exclusive and prestigious executive leadership programs as the way to develop their executive team members. In the corporate boardrooms they are a badge of honour, a reward for loyalty or perhaps a last-ditch attempt to secretly ‘fix’ the individual’s flaws under the guise of a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. It’s certainly something revered by executives, celebrated on Linkedin and claimed on the CV – that you have had an experience that only few executives can have and you’ve got the hat/jersey/folder to prove it.
I’m not saying it isn’t something to celebrate but are we creating stronger wolves or more adaptive packs?
How does sending an executive, no matter how experienced, to an executive leadership program on their own, away from their team to learn new frameworks and models, support the dynamic of the collective and grow the executive leadership team? How does the organisation benefit from the undertakings of one individual?
It’s a big ask for that person to walk back into the organisation and fully utilise those skills in a wolf pack that doesn’t speak the language, know the frameworks or apply the models.
It becomes cost prohibitive to send the whole executive team to these exclusive programs (virtually now) and again, if this was possible, how do they receive the support or coaching needed to implement and embed these new frameworks and practices into the work of the executive leadership team?
Having been a senior executive and now running my own executive leadership development firm, my view is that the more modern and future proof design for executive leadership development is centred on the philosophy that the work is in the work (not the classroom) and that the embedding of adaptive and strategic leadership development practices are best learnt when designed into the regular work of the leadership team.
So how do you start building a bespoke executive leadership development program for your senior leaders that sits within the work of the team? I’ll break down our five-step process for you
1. We define what executive leadership is for the business
We work with our clients to understand what the executive leadership group believe are the expectation of them as an individual and team. We do this through interviews with each member – reflecting on their leadership role and the role of the executive leadership team. Through this we begin to understand the assumptions about leadership and the commonly held and opposing views of the executive leadership competencies and capabilities of the group. We then work with the executive leadership team to define expectations an executive leader and the core capabilities required from the team. We challenge these ideas and definitions throughout the process to ensure they are progressive and in line with future thinking about growth edge executive leadership development.
2. We assess the effectiveness of the executive leadership
We then interview a cross section of individuals from across the organisation to understand how effective the executive leadership is against their defined core capabilities and synthesise this into a report. We utilise The Leadership Circle 360 degree tool to undertake individual 360 degree feedback for each executive and coach the team to explore and share the findings of this feedback. The team explores and agrees areas of focus and their individual and collective development priorities.
3. We observe and redesign the mechanics and dynamics of the executive leadership team
Once the development priorities are known, we work with the executive leadership team to observe their mechanics and dynamics to understand how their rhythms, rituals and ways of working could be redesigned to reinforce and build the desired executive leadership competencies.
4. We create a bespoke executive leadership development program
We create the bespoke executive leadership development practices for each team, to build the competencies of the team. We use a combination of individual and collective practices and agree on the rhythm of self-directed application and team and individual coaching that best suits the team and their desired development objectives. Then we support putting this into action.
5. The executive leadership team then practice, learn, evolve and grow their executive leadership capabilities together
The development becomes part of the way the executive team works, with regular reflection and feedback loops to assess progress. We coach the team and individuals throughout and evolve the practices to continue to stretch the team as they begin to embed the knowledge and capabilities.
By building the development work into the work of the executive leadership team, we create bespoke, cost effective leadership development programs that build more adaptive wolf packs, which means we can finally say goodbye to the era of the lone wolf (with the certificate to prove it).
Peta Karunaratne is an in-demand executive coach, HR innovation consultant and leadership development and team development facilitator who works with her clients across Australia, the UK, North America and New Zealand to build future-focussed collective leadership capabilities.
She is driven by her own purpose of helping people and organisations transform so that they can transform their lives, and the lives of the people they serve.
Her work sits at the intersection of human resources, strategy development and organisational transformation. She has delivered large-scale programs for ASX and FTSE 100 companies across the globe including SilverChef, Suncorp, Optus, Thiess and AMEC Foster Wheeler.
Peta has a talent for helping people, teams, leaders and organisations to thrive and realise new, more effective ways of working together to deliver commercial outcomes and positive impact.
The Karuna Collective approach was crafted from Peta’s experience as an executive leading complex organisational structures focussed on profit and purpose; where traditional models of change management, leadership and innovation were unable to achieve the transformational impact desired.
A renowned change-maker and purpose-driven leader, Peta has been the recipient of awards for her work including ‘Best for the World for Workers’ in the global B Corporation Awards in 2018 and 2019; and a finalist in the CEO Magazine’s HR Director of the Year awards in 2019.