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Breed and nurture leaders to propel companies forward


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The future for corporates will be nothing short of demanding. Disruption will rise from unexpected sources, technology will play a greater role, and operating norms that prevailed for some 50 years will be rendered obsolete. 

Is corporate Sri Lanka ready to face the challenges ahead? Have they geared their leadership and executive talent portfolio to succeed? Do they have the confidence and competence to forge innovative partnerships, leverage on emerging technologies and navigate through seas of uncertainty? In short, companies will need a new breed of leaders. 

Unfortunately the majority of organisations in Sri Lanka haven’t figured out how to fully develop their prospective leaders. This has resulted in many a pitfall- limited growth and development, lack of engagement and turnover. Moreover, when that general management and CEO post falls vacant, there is hiring from outside and never from within even with several potentials right inside the company. There are unwarranted costs in this approach as well, the cost of external hires whilst demoralising the internal potentials.



Companies need to grow their leaders; the question is, how?

Enhancing talent development requires deep commitment from the stakeholders, board members, senior leaders and also requires investment in the human resources function.  Once companies view leadership and executive development as an investment and not a cost, they need the human resource function to take a scientific and systematic view of ‘talent development’.

The following is a methodology that can be incorporated:

Set forth a clear and achievable vision, mission and values for the company

Create objectives stemming from the mission and vision which is divisible to each department in the company

Correlate the objectives to a set of values. Make the values of the company a true attribute to the behaviours and traits of the stakeholders and senior managers

Get the ‘right’ people on board from the beginning- those with the right set of values that mirror the company, those who have the right attitude to learn and grow and of course, those with the right skill set and know-how.

Create a set of competencies – Competencies are a set of characteristics, traits and behaviours that makes a person successful in its entirety of a job, than merely performing a job. For example, a sales person may have thorough product knowledge, able to line up the best clients, ensure high profit margins. Yet, if he is tongue-tied at the point of closing the sale, he lacks the important competency of ‘communication’. This trait or characteristic termed as ‘competency’ is an important factor for the successful function of his job. The optimum performance of an employee would in turn result in the optimum performance of the business. 

Therefore, it’s paramount prior to any development initiatives, to list down a set of executive and leadership competencies (eight to 10 the most) that define the talent portfolio. They need to be tangible, measurable and actionable and serve as the foundation of the talent development plan.

Seema Sanghi, in his study of eight automobile industries analysing factors that drive results at various levels of leadership came up with the following competencies: Visioning, Direction and Goal Setting, Judgement, Holistic View, Business and Customer Focus, Inspiring Leadership, Learning from Experience, Drive to Improve, Networking, Partnership, People Development, Team Working.

These competencies need to emerge from a careful analysis of the most important criterion that effects and drives performance and can vary from one industry to another. The competencies need to be defined carefully with behavioural indicators attached to each.

The behavioural indicators for ‘Visioning’ could be defined as follows:

  • Develops a clear vision for the future of the business or organisation
  • Maintains a long-term, big-picture view of the business and identifies the future needs and opportunities for the business.
  • Sees problems and understands issues before others do
  • Challenges status-quo thinking and assumptions
  • Comes up with fresh perspectives; innovative, breakthrough ideas and new paradigms that create value in the marketplace

Once the competencies are defined and crystallised within the walls of the company, the human resource function would need to begin benchmarking or ranking each employee against the competencies. There will be gaps found – some employees with many gaps in competencies, others with less. Those with several competency gaps many need to be re-considered in their current role and position. Are they ‘right’ for the role set forth? Can they be rotated or moved to a different role?

The employees with lesser gaps, those who have an endearing ability to drive the company forward by filling in those gaps with training and development will be on the A-list talent portfolio.

The development and training system needs to be carefully designed and implemented to enable a scheduled career and succession plan for the high potential, aspirational executives in this A-list category. 

As we’ve seen from this process, talent development requires a scientific approach and a dedicated human resource team supported and driven by top management. It is then that the largest asset of the company, its ‘people’ that will drive results, propelling the company to do so in its stride. 


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