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Leadership Development for a New Era: Building Strong Leaders in 2024

It used to be that a good administrator with strong technical skills could succeed as a leader in business, but today’s leadership is more focused on guiding and inspiring teams and supporting individuals in an environment of more and continually faster change.

“Having proactive leaders with a growth mindset who foster an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work and contribute at their highest possible level is an enormous benefit to any organization,” says Nicole Brusewitz, Vice President of Leadership Development, Learning & Consulting Services for FCCS. “And since employees have so many options of where and how they work these days, companies that don’t include leadership skill development alongside technical skill development will likely suffer in the talent acquisition battle.”

The pandemic also demonstrated that leaders don’t need to be all-knowing. Forced by the pandemic to respond quickly, forced to ask questions and potentially make mistakes, and certainly making decisions amid dramatic uncertainty. Leaders became more humble, and it turns out that employees appreciate it.

“People want leaders who display humility, who can say they don’t know or that they screwed up,” says Jeannie Clinkenbeard, Director and Senior Consultant for FCCS. “One of the most powerful things a leader can do is to not have the answers and restrain from solving their team’s problems. Rather than demonstrating their own expertise, they should encourage them to think things through themselves by asking more and better questions of them.”

One of the biggest shifts facing today’s leaders is the now-common expectation that an employee’s whole self will be recognized and considered within the business context. Work/life balance and its broader category of employee wellness are top of mind for employees, and leaders are expected to support their employees through both professional challenges and personal life events, making accommodations with a new flexibility.

“Employees want their leaders to know about their lives and to care about them as individuals and how they’re making it through the day,” says Nicole. “Leaders need to demonstrate a level of care and understanding for employees’ situations, while also holding them and the team accountable for results.”

Leaders have a dramatic impact on employee morale, productivity and retention. In a tight labor market where employees can easily find another position with a manager they like, and with leadership challenges still evolving post-pandemic, it behooves every organization to put a strong focus on leadership development.

“Leading a team is one of the most important positions in an organization, being able
to effectively get work completed through motivation of other people’s efforts,” says
Jeannie. “Strategy and vision are critical, of course, but it takes managers leading
teams to get any vision off the planning board and into action.”

There are numerous leadership development programs available. Some Farm
Credit banks and associations have developed internal programs, and the ag and
cooperative industry also offer leadership development opportunities. FCCS offers a
range of leadership journeys targeting individual contributors through senior leaders,
delivering targeted, effective content coupled with perspectives and ideas from other
Farm Credit participants and expert presenters.

Before selecting among leadership development programs, organizations should
first define the desired competencies for every leadership level, and then use this
as a framework to evaluate every learning opportunity before any training dollars
are spent.

“Regardless of where leadership development training is sourced, it’s important that
organizations have an enterprise-wide leadership development plan, founded on
leadership competencies to support the organization’s culture and strategic vision,”
says Nicole. “No organization has the luxury to be complacent about developing their
leaders or the impact those leaders have on business success.”

For more information about FCCS leadership development journeys, visit our
Accelerate Center
or contact Jeannie Clinkenbeard at 404-617-6917 or via email.

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