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Overcoming 5 Barriers To Internal Leadership Development

To grow an organisation, you need to grow its people. There is no shortcut, alternative, or way around it. Senior staff need to grow their emerging leaders through internal leadership development programs, creating authentic relationships with their employees through more than just performance reviews.

Overcoming 5 Barriers To Internal Leadership Development By using current leaders for internal leadership development your organisation can gain a low-cost, highly effective opportunity to teach, coach, mentor, and develop the leaders of tomorrow.

The benefits associated with these programs include:

  • The ability to instil the leadership values and skills necessary for success in the organisation 
  • Strengthen the organisational culture and communication 
  • Drive business results by ensuring strategic business alignment between senior business leaders and emerging leaders
  • Promote positive business and organisational change

However, there are some barriers preventing organisations from implementing an effective internal leadership development program.

The top five barriers an organisation experiences in relation to effectively involving leaders as coaches and teachers are:

  1. Lack of time to teach or coach

    This is the primary obstacle in the way of successfully implementing internal leadership programs. Since the recession, leaders are asked to do more with less and feel they are being stretched too thin.
  2. Lack of accountability

    Seasoned leaders are expected to spend a significant amount of their time to help develop new leaders but the majority aren't held responsible for participating in those activities. The result is they often do not make time to contribute meaningfully, especially given their competing priorities.
  3. Lack of skills

    Current leaders can lack the skills and the organisational support necessary to effectively develop new leaders. Structure, culture, and support needs to be present in the organisational environment or even the most highly skilled leaders will fail.
  4. Lack of interest

    Some leaders don't consider teaching others as part of their job. Instead, they think it should be delegated to human resources or leadership & development. This barrier signifies the need to communicate a clear leadership development philosophy throughout the organisation. Organisations need to emphasise the role of current leaders in the development of new leaders.
  5. Lack of information and infrastructure

    Leaders do not have the necessary infrastructure and/or tools to effectively coach emerging leaders. Aspiring leaders need to know what roles may be available to them, the steps in their career ladder, and competencies necessary for future success.

While seasoned leaders have a responsibility to play an active role in the development of emerging leaders, a disconnect exists between those expectations and the reality. This disconnect is due to a lack of consistent leadership development philosophy, which needs to be communicated clearly.

Overcoming leadership development barriers

Leadership development practitioners already design programs, processes, and strategies that leverage internal leaders with experience to teach, mentor, coach and develop emerging leaders.

'Leaders developing leaders' for example, is a strategy, where organisations use their senior leaders as leadership development tools. It has proven to reap benefits due to its inexpensive, scalable, and efficient nature. 

This strategy has been broken down into four key steps:

  • Identify - Do you have a clear selection process to identify which leaders will develop new leaders?
  • Develop - Do you prepare seasoned leaders to teach, coach and develop new leaders?
  • Assess - Do you hold leaders accountable for development through assessment?
  • Acknowledge - Do you recognise those who do it well?

Not only is this a low cost way to build future leadership capabilities, it is also a way for organisations to position themselves for the future. 

The end result is increased engagement, productivity, and supply of organisational leaders. 

Author Credits

Bruce Anderson is the Managing Director of Lee Hecht Harrison, with a unique history of success in complex operational, customer service, marketing, sales, and stakeholder management roles within four distinct sectors; health, financial services, infrastructure and professional services. Strong involvement within the community sector through the Dafydd Lewis Scholarship, Fitzroy Adventure Playground, Leadership Victoria plus specific programs for teenagers. For more information, please visit lhh.com.au
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