Democratizing the Leadership Development Initiatives

By Connie Kim, Senior Director of Leadership, NYU Stern School of Business

Connie Kim, Senior Director of Leadership, NYU Stern School of Business

In light of your experience, what is the significance of leadership development initiatives in enterprises?  

I’d say that today, it is imperative for enterprises to make leadership development available to a larger group of people. Once limited to the people who were considered to have high potential or a part of the executive management level, leadership development is democratized within the enterprise ecosystem so that more junior rank talents can have access. With this, it is evident that many people who are out of that elite class have started their leadership development journey, which is very engaging and enables them to potentially excel beyond what they have done, with the additional support and guidance from the company.  

Taking this into account, at NYU Stern School of Business, we believe that leadership development is a great opportunity for students and organizations. And this experiential learning occurs as people get involved in it, instead of sitting in a workshop or a series of meetings. More importantly, in leadership development, there are some significant elements that people get beyond what’s taught in the classroom and what’s being experienced by the students. Staying true to our belief, we offer MBA students this opportunity to experience in a safe environment, almost like virtual reality. For example, two years ago, we had sponsorship from an external consulting organization to run a crisis simulation for MBA students where they were put through stresses and uncertainties that comes with a crisis. They were able to leverage their technical skills and contribute to finding a solution to the situation. Similarly, if organizations can offer such experiences to their employees, it could be engaging and rewarding for everyone involved.

What are the trends that you see in the leadership development space?

We strive to cultivate close relationships with the organizations’ management, departments, professors, and some of the research they conduct. But, as leadership development relates to what’s being practiced in the corporate world, talking to various talent experts within companies is the best way to gather information on what they’re doing. I found that it continues to be a challenge for organizations to find the right recipe when it comes to leadership development. And, it is not necessarily the actual execution, but how do we help these people who are involved in understanding the concept and benefits of leadership development. It’s always a challenge to enable learning to continue beyond what was experienced at the moment. 

  It is important for coachees to ask themselves whether they’re ready to work with a coach as they are the primary driving force of success when it comes to coaching

At NYU Stern, that’s always the big mystery box that we are all trying to unlock. We support students to structure in these reflection points throughout their journey. Furthermore, a comparable process within the corporate world is performance evaluation, which is either carried out frequently or on an annual basis. But I think it is time to reframe this trend. It is necessary to have a conversation about what could be better to positioning one as the manager who is a part of the equation rather than one who writes the equation.

What are the strategies that you adopt in finding the right (coach?) partner for your business?

When it comes to executive management, most of the global organizations will have a deep rolodex of names that they can draw upon. For mid-market enterprises, perhaps they select the coaching partners by considering their business needs, the goals of and hopeful outcomes from the coaching relationship,  andthe nature of people involved in that relationship—the coach and coachee. But, when it comes to selecting a coach, I would suggest enterprises may want to also consider the coach's or the organization’s relationship success rate and understand their core client base. The other criteria include the experience of coaches, whether they come from corporate or academic, and what are the walks of life and backgrounds that the coach can bring to the table.

On the other hand, it is important that coachees need to ask themselves whether they’re ready to work with a coach as they are the primary driving force of success when it comes to coaching. A coach is meant to be an accountability partner and not necessarily someone who leads you down the path.

Could you elaborate on the challenges faced by enterprises in initiating a leadership development initiative? 

I think the leadership development part of enterprises is ripe for evolution because several startup companies are filling the opportunity to support early-career people by offering them with leadership coaching. In terms of leadership development training, organizations should evaluate the metrics that they believe would signify a positive return on that investment for, for example, hiring a coaching company to support their people instead of focusing on cost-effective measures to the hilt. Also, they have to communicate this idea with managers involved and get their support to ensure the internal alignment between coachees, managers and employees, and the need for leadership coaching.  

What personal skills and traits help to propel your company to success and to lead your team? 

The traits of a corporate leader depend upon the nature of the industry he/she/they works and the strategy and goals of the company. But, without these dependency factors, the ability to be agile is one of the key characteristics in this changing fast-paced world that we’re in right now. The ability to stay "on course" to the company vision while curating a culture that is in line with the company values, create an environment of trust and team, and communicate effectively is paramount to a successful leader, especially the IT world.

Another characteristic is emotional intelligence. It’s the application of their self-understanding in specific situations and their ability to connect with others.Think back on a time when you worked for/with a "great leader" did that person make you feel? What characteristics really stood out for you about that leader? Understanding one's motivations, strengths, values are some areas within emotional intelligence that we try to introduce to students at NYU Stern. The last characteristic is to be globally-minded, not just geographically, but to be open-minded as it relates to thinking, processes, and experiences, bringing that to the table, and developing a safe zone for exchange of ideas because that is the fodder for innovation.

Can you talk about the tools that facilitate the operations in the leadership development space?

In my opinion, leadership development is meant to be self-driven. There are a plethora of leadership-related tools that individuals can access easily to aid in one's leadership development journey, A caveat, however, is that tools are only as useful as the individual who wants to use them. A couple of tools that we encourage students to experience include the practice of journaling, the practice of coaching with one another, and the practice of being able to ask yourselves self-awareness questions throughout time. With this, we’re hoping to build the muscle for this group of talent so that they will be able to apply their skills today. Many times, we note that leadership is not a "destination" is all about how you can make an impact in the group, enterprise, society. When we try to reframe it, we hope to debunk this whole generalization that leadership is about power and ascending the heights of the corporate ladder. I’d say that leadership is knowing where you are and doing what you can do today, to get to a tomorrow that is where you want to go.

See Also: Top Leadership Development Training/Coaching Companies

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