Support systems that facilitate leadership development

Written by
Dr. Ines Wichert

14 Aug 2018

14 Aug 2018 • by Dr. Ines Wichert

Leadership development brings additional risks for individuals who are on an accelerated track where they are expected to continuously move out of their comfort zone and progress at pace. This increases levels of personal pressure and the possibility of burnout. At the same time, it increases the risk of costly business mistakes. To guard against such derailment, organisations support their fast track leaders through the provision of a range of social support systems – but what support is most effective?

In-depth interviews with 38 HR and business leaders and six millennials conducted during 2017 explored what’s working as effective counter measures to deal with increased levels of pressure and stress.

Let us look at the types of support that accelerated leaders need access to. We broadly differentiate between four types of support:

  • Appraisal support
  • Informational support
  • Instrumental support
  • Emotional support

Appraisal support

Approval support, or the provision of feedback, is particularly powerful for helping emerging leaders develop faster. It is an important source of information that helps a person to increase their self-awareness and to understand their impact on others. Emerging leaders who get feedback are more likely to have greater self-awareness. Where this external reference point is not available, there may be a gulf between how emerging leaders see themselves and how others see them.

To enable access to appraisal support you can support their fast track high-potential employees by providing:

  • Regular 1:1 meetings for informal and timely feedback
  • regular performance reviews which allow the employee to understand their overall performance and gauge the effectiveness of what they are doing
  • access to self-assessment tools, such as personality profiling, to increase self-insights
  • mobile technology that facilitates requesting and sharing instant feedback

Informational support

Another important type of support is access to information and guidance. This can be technical information linked to a new role that a high-potential employee has taken on or more general career advice, such as information about available roles or advice about unwritten rules of how to succeed in the organisation.

Your business can enable access to information support through a variety of processes, including:

  • regular networking events, ideally including people from all organisational levels and held during work hours. Access to the right contacts is particularly important for women.
  • career self-management information, such as individual career profiles, e-learning portals and information about promotion criteria and processes. This is particularly important for young career talent for whom career clarity is a core driver.
  • onboarding programmes which introduce a new starter to an organisation’s processes, values and culture thus helping to get the person up to speed faster
  • an effective intranet and employee directory to help find the right people and locate experts within the organisation

Instrumental support

To help ease the additional strain of starting a new role, practical support can make a big difference. In some instances, this support will be individually tailored. In other situations, it will be programmatic and formalised. To facilitate this, you can: 

  • support with relocation, such as finding schools and language training  
  • coaches to address specific training needs

Emotional support

Nurturing relationships at work are an indirect source of career acceleration as they can help increase an emerging leader’s resilience and consequently decrease the risk of derailment through burnout. Systems that can help here are:

  • business resource groups that allow employees to meet like-minded people
  • office layouts that facilitate informal meetings
  • well-being offering

By ensuring that accelerated high-potential employees have access to a range of support systems, you can help your future leadership talent navigate the challenges of an accelerated career track effectively. These systems and programmes provide a strong safety net and should be further supplemented with regular 1:1 conversations where any personal needs can be established, and tailored support can be provided. Organisations and individuals must take joint responsivity for the well-being of the high-potential employee on an accelerated track. Current leaders cannot abdicate their duty of care towards their accelerated high-potential employees by asking these employees to manage the additional strain of accelerated leadership development on their own and exclusively through self-service of available support programmes.

For further information