March 14.2017, 3.23pm

Leading The Way: How HR Can Help Managers Become Better Leaders

The famous Arthurian myth tells the story of a young man who pulls the sword Excalibur from a stone and goes on to become one of Britain’s greatest kings. There are lessons to be taken from this story in terms of developing your organisation’s leaders too.

That’s not to say that you need to arm your managers with a mythical weapon – but you do need to equip them with the tools they need to succeed. The other aspect of the King Arthur story that stands out is the Knights of the Round Table, a collection of heroes who collaborate closely with the king to achieve collective greatness.

Turning managers into better leaders is all about cultivating their skills, creating an environment in which they can thrive, and steering their efforts into getting the most from the people around them.

So how can HR achieve this in today’s ever-changing business world?


Define what makes a good leader


HR should set out an implicit set of indicators or descriptions to give managers a contextual understanding of what’s expected of leaders within their organisation. Clear expectations mean that both managers and employees understand the role of organisational leaders. Leadership is something that is earned and achieved by consensus, after all.

The best leaders find a way to thrive within an organisation but they also need effective organisational support to truly fulfil their potential. Given the right tools and a proper support network, there’s no reason why your managers can’t become the heroes that you need to lead your business to success.


Develop your leaders’ strategic skills


Great leaders are brave enough to make sweeping changes, but they know when to listen to their advisors when something isn’t working. Sure, they need a range of skills but one of the most important traits in any leader is knowing when something is or isn’t working.

Some new managers can get bogged down in reactive activities like solving functional problems or achieving short-term objectives. Great leaders need to be strategic in nature, meeting operational goals while also planning for future success.

They need to see how their decisions will affect the organisation and how they can be interpreted by everyone from employees to competitors to the media. That involves different levels of analysis and a clear understanding of causation in the context of their industry.

On the one hand, they need to be able to comprehend the details that will inform their decisions. Yet they also need to operate in broad strokes and to analyse their industry at a micro and macro level.

It’s vital for HR to develop the strategic capabilities of managers and those employees who have been identified as future leaders as part of your succession planning efforts.

This can be achieved by training, peer support or mentoring programs but another consideration is ensuring that people with natural strategic skills don’t slip through the cracks. Ongoing employee assessments can help identify natural strategists who may need to be nurtured until they can achieve leadership roles.


Turn managers into organisational architects


Managers need to have a clear understanding of an organisation’s structure, processes and design if they’re going to implement the sort of changes that are increasingly needed in an age of digital disruption. This will allow them to better assess the impact of their decisions and to introduce strategies that will reap long-term benefits.

Companies are increasingly moving away from a hierarchical structure to team-based networks that can address specific objectives or projects. So leaders need to be able to adapt to these changes and pursue organisational redesigns that will benefit the company.

Using more fluid organisational structures requires the people at the top to have an intimate understanding of how these structures are interlinked. They need to know their kingdom, the resources they have at their disposal, and how to get the best out of them.

Getting leaders to embrace design thinking is one of the first steps to introducing a solution-based approach to solving problems. Peer-to-peer learning can help but HR also needs to encourage feedback and input from internal stakeholders so that leaders can better understand the impact of any proposed changes.


Encourage a people-centric approach


It’s now widely accepted that an organisation’s employees are its greatest resource. Companies are now heavily invested in programs that encourage employee engagement and employee development.

Leaders can no longer apply a dictatorial approach or rely on a top-down leadership model to achieve results. A manager with poor interpersonal skills can affect the morale, performance, and ultimately the profitability of a company.

With millennials now becoming the dominant generation in workplaces and older workers embracing a “millennial mindset,” leaders need to find new ways to bring the workforce with them. This calls for a collaborative and respect-driven approach so managers can get the most from their talent pool. The best leaders can absorb collaborative input and incorporate it into their strategic decision-making.

Round table thinking is not just limited to popular myths. HR has an important role in producing enabled leaders and convincing them of the importance of performance management, employee development and organisational culture.

Leaders can no longer delegate people management to HR. However, adopting disruptive HR software can make it easier for managers to track employees’ progress, assess their ongoing development and identify areas for individual improvement.


Want to know how you can attract and retain the leaders of tomorrow? 

The Ultimate Guide to Managing Millennials


Mark SextonBy Mark Sexton

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