Organizations with the strongest leaders have nearly double the revenue growth compared to those with weaker leaders, according to new research from CEB (NYSE: CEB), the leading member-based advisory company. However, most leaders lack the full complement of skills to thrive in today’s rapidly changing work environment. To remedy this, organizations must adjust their approach to leadership and develop leaders who are able to build and enable powerful networks within the organization, creating conditions for employees to work through and with others to increase productivity.
The company’s Executive Guidance for 2014 shows that shifts in workplace dynamics – from an overwhelming amount of information to accelerating globalization to increased requirements for cross-company collaboration – mean that traditional approaches to leadership and the skills leaders possess are no longer enough to achieve desired business outcomes. Leaders must take on a new role, “network leadership,” in addition to the more traditional transactional and transformational roles. Network leadership is about helping employees collaborate across business silos in order to maximize productivity and strengthen the performance of the overall organization.
“Network leadership is going to be critical for organizations to remain competitive in the new work environment,” said Conrad Schmidt, global research officer, CEB. “In order for organizations to achieve higher growth, truly differentiate themselves from competitors and maintain an edge, they must set a higher bar for their leaders, requiring them to go beyond setting strategic direction and driving execution.”
Unfortunately, most leaders and organizations are not prepared to embrace such change. In fact, only 37 percent of executives believe their leadership bench has the skills required to achieve critical results today. To build capable network leaders, organizations need to encourage leaders to be more than just individual motivators and require them to take on a more collaborative and network-building role.
Organizations seeking to develop network leaders who consistently deliver strong profit and revenue growth should:
- Help Leaders Manage Differently – Encourage leaders to guide employees on how to work more effectively in their networks instead of directing what employees do in their work.
- Build Network Leadership Skills – Approach leadership development differently, by focusing on developing leaders’ agility, providing them with exposure to diverse work experiences and highlighting the benefits of – and tools for – building networks.
- Create Succession Plans for Network Leadership – Move away from predictable, linear succession plans and adopt a portfolio approach to managing the leadership bench including attention to the demand for network leaders as corporate assets.