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Essay

Leaders Need Exposure

If exposure to internal and external peers is one of the most effective learning methods for leaders, leadership development programs should include it.
exposure, leaders, internal partners, external peers

It’s fair to say that companies want their leaders to succeed. It is to their benefit that they do. But for all the companies making formal leadership development investments, this January, Deloitte reported 84 percent of global organizations are selling their leaders and ultimately their companies short, said Anthony Abbatiello, a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice and the global leader for Deloitte Leadership.

Through exposure to other leaders, new contexts and novel challenges, leaders learn from colleagues, other industry leaders, consumer feedback, as well as external contexts about what works and what doesn’t in business. Strategically exposing leaders to other leaders allows them to discuss, learn and understand how others make decisions, how they allocate budgets, sell in new markets and drive innovation.

Abbatiello, one of the co-authors for the January paper, “Better Pond, Bigger Fish,” said this kind of immersion is one of the most effective innovations in leader development. “It’s sort of breaking the mental model they’ve been used to, to open the aperture to other opportunities.”

Further, through coaching and mentoring, high potential leaders gain exposure to different perspectives, challenges and solutions beyond what they’d typically encounter in their daily work. The paper offered an example of a transportation company that connects emerging leaders with veteran leaders outside the organization through a virtual and in-person external mentoring program.

Other initiatives like leadership consortiums can help leaders from diverse industries get together for mutual leadership development, the paper said. In immersion labs, as well as externships and shadowing programs, leaders can gain insight from their business’ clients and partners.

The paper offered several actions for learning leaders who want to leverage exposure to deepen the impact of their leadership development efforts. They can:

  • Design programs where leaders develop critical capabilities through challenging experiences and frequent exposure to diverse leaders in and outside of the company.
  • Integrate real customer feedback into learning activities with leaders for external exposure.
  • Incorporate immersion experiences or interactions with outside leaders into development programs to give leaders external exposure.
  • Add coaching and mentoring opportunities for ongoing aspects of leader development.
  • Promote relevant opportunities for networking and social exchange.
  • Encourage future leaders to expand their network’s breadth and depth.

“Learning the mental models of how someone approaches innovation or product development or capital investment brings a new perspective,” Abbatiello said.

He said these leader-to-leader conversations should happen in a facilitative environment for individuals to reap more value from the engagements.

Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.

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