To recap: Roselinde Torres, senior partner of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and leadership expert in its People & Organization practice, says that “There are some aspects of leadership that are timeless, like vision, intelligence, good judgment, courage, ambition, and integrity. However, the hierarchical, inward-focused leadership style that defined the 20th century is unraveling. The leadership profiles, programs, and processes that businesses used in the 20th century do not fit 21st-century leadership needs.”
It is one thing to understand conceptually what it takes to be a 21st century leader; it is another to identify and nurture the next generation of leaders within an organization. To do so, training programs should aim to place future leaders outside their comfort zones and force them to confront the complexities of the modern world.
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Torres says that some of the most important aspects of 21st-century leadership training include:
1. Expanding horizons. This could include sending someone to work in a new business unit, in an external entity like an industry group or government panel, or a new country or continent. “When future leaders are exposed to new and different environments, they are forced to learn how to connect with, understand, and mobilize people toward a single goal,” says Torres.
2. Creating fast tracks. Some companies are deciding to connect leadership assignments to key strategic needs and requirements and to narrow the responsibilities of older leaders. “Both of these tactics allow younger leaders to take on more responsibilities faster,” adds Torres.
3. Accelerating skills development. Companies frequently have less time to cultivate leaders—instead of 15 or 20 years, the time frame today is closer to 10 or 12 years. “Quarterly talent reviews, timely feedback evaluations, and leadership-sharing partnerships can all help to ensure that the next generation of leaders has the right skills for the job,” says Torres.
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“Generic leadership development programs are outdated and ineffective,” she stresses. “Instead of imposing leadership models from above, companies should build them from the outside in, through careful and orchestrated exposure to a range of new experiences rather than classical leadership training.”