Developing Leadership Skills for the Future
Q&A with Adjunct Professor of Leadership Declan Fitzsimons
The Future of Business Needs Effective Leaders
There are few leadership development programs that are tackling the future of business. The future is uncertain. There are changes, challenges, and opportunities yet to be determined. Whether it’s the future of the workforce, the future of finance, the future of technology, or new industries, the future is coming fast. Effective leadership strategy and adaptable management skills will be needed to keep up in this ever-changing world. It will take effective leadership courses to provide executive management with the tools and skills needed to handle whatever the future may throw at them.
To get some key insights into the leadership training for the future of business that Columbia provides, we spoke to Declan Fitzsimons adjunct professor of leadership of the Executive Development Program: Leading Into the Future starting May 15, 2023.
How Does Columbia’s New Executive Development Program Deliver the Effective Leadership Skills Needed for the Future?
We’ve made Executive Development Program: Leading Into the Future very personalized, which means that there's a lot of attention to the individual person as they are. We're going to be coaching participants, supporting them, and helping them reorientate themselves to gain insight into who they are and what their leadership style is. We don't try to change or fix people. We don’t put them into boxes. That sounds a bit odd, but most leadership courses implicitly do try to say, look, we have a theory, and we're going to measure the difference between you and the theory and we're going to try and get you closer to the business management theory which says you should be this kind of leader and we're going to find out the gap between the leader you currently are and the leader that you should be. The program we run doesn't do that. We're not actually interested in changing or fixing people. We're much more interested in creating a space where people can be who they are and discover more about who they are in leadership settings and the leadership style that suits them. And when we say leadership settings, it doesn't just mean at work. We're interested in the whole person because you're not a different person. You may feel that you're in a different role at home and at work, but it's actually you. This leadership training program doesn't try to measure people, put people into nice colored boxes and say that you're a this or a that and you should be more of this and less of that. It's more, "Hi, who are you? Welcome. Here's some things that you need to do as a leader, just do your thing. Show up as you are. Do your thing and then we'll have a conversation about it." What we'll be able to do is really get a sense of if things are not quite going the way you'd like them to, and they rarely do for any leader, then we'll be able to have a conversation where we can explore what is it about you that you brought to that particular setting that you feel may have influenced the outcome that you got in a way that wasn't as helpful as you would like. So how do you show up in a particular setting and get people to reflect on it? Letting people be who they are and providing them the tools they need to be more effective leaders is a strength of the program. Another strength of the program, provoking thought and learning how to ask better questions. Truly effective leaders know how to ask better questions. It helps with negotiation skills, higher employee engagement, strategic thinking, and team effectiveness.
There's a paradox in relation to change is that the more you try to change the less likely it is that you will change. Most executive management programs characterize leadership coaching as a set of skills, that you can be trained in. That's done by measuring the gap between the leader you are now and the leadership styles you should have according to someone's theory. That does not characterize effective leadership. It reduces it to a set of technical leadership skills which can be mastered rather than what we try to do, which is that everyone's unique. Rather than trying to fit everybody into the same cookie-cutter set of generic leadership skills, we try to invite people to discover more about what it is about the way they show up that affects other people. How other people, like a team member, notice and either feel drawn to or recoil from them? That's a very different approach because it means that everyone will learn something different. So there is no one size fits all especially when it comes to effective leaders. We take that very seriously. Whereas other executive management programs tend to pay lip service to that idea but at the end of the day they're still going to put you in boxes.
Another strength of our leadership programs is that we do work as a team. While effective leadership skills are obviously about the person as an individual, we are also going to be referring to and exploring the impact of the content of the other parts of the program on their experience. Because the content of the program is really designed to really provoke thought about who do I need to be in this kind of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world? What are the demands placed upon me by this very complex world out there? What do I need to be understanding about what's going on, those trends that are going on? What do I need to learn and know about in order to be able to engage effectively in not just the current situation I'm facing but the future?
Our business leadership development course participants are feeling and facing the complexity of the world out there and have the energy and the inclination to really want to go out and make a difference. But they're not quite sure whether they've got all the tools they need and they'd appreciate getting a bit more “tooled up” to engage as an effective leader. Because the key to this is effectiveness. How do I navigate the complexity of this, of the world out there that I need to engage in? How can I be an effective leader knowing that it's not all going to be smooth? There's going to be bumps along the road, so what are the tools I need to kind of help me navigate the challenges that are going to be out there? It is very much an out there and an inside orientation but they are facing the outside world and having to engage that on behalf of the organizations that they work for or represent.
Leadership is something we can all do and is not the province of some special person who got to be a charismatic CEO. Columbia’s Executive Development Program: Leading Into the Future is different from the usual business management courses that simply talk about great leaders do this and great leaders do that. Instead, we provide the transformational leadership tools needed to pay attention to the room you are in, to the people you're talking to, whether it's a team member or someone outside your organization, and realize that it's not about you being a great leader. It's about you paying attention to what's going on around in the moment and how you can make a difference in every single room you go into and with every person you talk to. It’s not about am I made of the right stuff? Instead, it provides the leadership abilities that really help you grow into the person that can do that and how your uniqueness is seen and validated. It shows you how to lead people in the way that works best for you. This is how we'll help develop effective leaders, successful leaders for the future.
It will make a difference in participants’ lives because they'll realize those leadership qualities are not just something for the workplace or on a leadership team. It's in all aspects of their lives including how they lead themselves. The relationship-building skills that are needed for a leadership role. Essentially, leadership is really about how do I show up in the various parts of my life that I care about. The effective skills, especially communication skills, that our participants learn about can be applied everywhere, every day, and in every interaction. It’s transformed the way I think about really important things in my life. How I have friendships, how I am at home, how I look after myself, as well as how do I treat other people at work and how that affects the performance or the outcomes of those different parts of my life. It has the potential to be truly life-changing.
Declan Fitzsimons is the adjunct professor of leadership of the Executive Development Program: Leading Into the Future starting May 15, 2023.
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