Leadership development lifecycles in the health industry saw a lot invested two decades ago. Then the emphasis shifted to other priorities around financial performance and accountability as systems struggled to control costs, quality and safety innovation and improvement, lean thinking and other initiatives to improve how health services and systems are run. All of which were and are legitimate and all of which are under the aegis of leadership.
The result is that to a large degree executives have had to fend for themselves in developing their capabilities. Those able to find quality mentors learnt as they went, but with great guidance. Some did MBAs, although there seems less interest in them now overall. Some got themselves to reputable schools of learning such as Harvard for short courses in leadership development.
Every system I know reports that they do not have the same level of talent available to them for executive appointment and do not attract a field of suitable candidates to fill talent gaps. Members of HardyGroup International Executive Learning Sets (a vehicle for leadership development) report the same result and often comment on the lack of depth in the talent pool for executive roles.
The time might be right to cut our losses and focus on identifying the potential future leaders in the system and develop them. This does not mean burning the higher level executives in the C-Suite stable. Rather, focusing their development on mentoring; external programs to expose them to other executives and systems, Learning Set membership and being coaches and mentors themselves.
It is time to ready those who must assume the leadership mantle in the future. It is time to test the mettle of those who regard themselves as leadership talent.
This is not a sink or swim approach. This requires a highly planned approach to development absolutely grounded in the real world of work, organisational life and relationships. The theory and practice of Action Learning is well proven and gives organisations a significant return on their investment, and, is so flexible that you can design programs to fit organisational demands, organisational realities and pressures and the need to assess and test potential future leaders against the flame of the real world of work where they have to perform to be successful.
This cannot be done without support and sponsorship. It also requires that potential leaders have the ability to “live in the grey” and successfully lead and implement change, and, in the process, learn to lead by having to lead and assume responsibility and accountability. Hence the title – “Leadership Mettle – Do you have it?” The opportunity to combine the needs of the organisation and the individual and properly manage executive talent into, through and sometimes out of an organisation is critical to success.