How to unleash great leaders – and killer commercial ideas

Leader spelled out with wooden blocks

Businesses dedicate big budgets to building stronger leaders. However, in 2016 Australia’s largest ever leadership survey revealed serious shortfalls in innovation, business performance and leadership development across the country.

The Study of Australian Leadership, by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Workplace Leadership, found more than 40 per cent of organisations fell short of their of performance targets for return on investment and profitability.

Centre Director Professor Peter Gahan said that the current economic climate made it crucial for Australian organisations to urgently review their leadership programs. He said the business community is facing a period of seismic change as we move from a resources-based economy, turn to new trading opportunities, and contend with technology that’s transforming business models and jobs.

In an ABC News report, he said: “We need to take immediate action, using leadership skills and innovation capabilities as the levers for responding to these challenges.”

The question is: how? From short, facilitator-led workshops to expensive off-site business schools, there are so many choices to nurture today’s leaders. We’ve narrowed it down to four crucial ingredients that make leadership development truly effective in a world that demands a disruptive approach.

1. Real life

Context is everything. Leadership development needs to start with pointy questions that shape the entire activity: who, why and where? The very specific development needs of people, teams and businesses need to be honestly and clearly identified – and used to create a development program that fits like a glove to deliver proven personal and business results.

2. Real work

Theory and reflection have their place. But unlocking innovation and inspirational leadership needs a multi-method, customised approach around coaching, mentoring and action-learning opportunities. And that’s where the real potency lies: action. Central to our leadership programs is a ‘shark tank’-like activity, where participants develop real breakthroughs in products or services and pitch them to their own business executives and external experts. It’s energising, motivating and seriously effective – with one of our clients implementing a breakthrough technology solution as a part of their senior leadership development program that is expected to deliver over $10 million in the next three financial years.

3. Real relationships

Relationships are hard and the workplace can be a minefield of clashing egos, agendas and personalities. Get it wrong at the top and you’ll have unproductive silos and bottlenecks, plus wasted time and energy. Get it right and you unlock freedom, creativity, collaboration, morale and productivity. That’s why we’re passionate about programs that are undertaken by a cohort of an organisation’s leaders, rather than each going solo. We’ve seen the proof: it builds real connections that translate on-the-job. The bonds that are built during a shared leadership program go on to help solve business issues and transform workplace culture.

4. Real measurement

At Effectus, striving for results is in our DNA and we’re unwavering in our quest to provide measurable improvements in business metrics that matter. It’s imperative that your leadership program delivers real performance gains in areas like capability change, commercial returns, retention and promotion. Your data-led targets and measurement methods need to be established at the start, used as a guidepost throughout, and be your tools to ensure 100% accountability and transparency at the end.

Talk to us today about real, effective leadership development

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