Developing leaders. It starts with strong community and culture.

It is no coincidence that the decline in new leaders emerging is almost directly in line with the erosion of companies possessing strong values and a sense of community. Talent grows within an environment they trust and enjoy. Many of today’s top leaders grew up in strong communities, which held strong value sets, and it is no coincidence that it has been such a successful generation.

In the US, there is a very strong belief that sport plays a crucial role in the development of the young and the development of future leaders. It is no coincidence that the High School Football matches are played on a Friday evening and the whole family/community comes together to watch. There is a belief that it makes the young feel a connection to their community, to representation and in the development of behaviours.

Contrast that to the UK and the weekend sports matches which often one parent will attend and certainly will not be central to a community. The US has long argued that it creates an agenda that aids the development of youth which is often missing in the development of leaders in other countries. The US does place sports right at the heart of leadership development as is seen from their summer school programs through to High School and the influence of their college sport. Whether you agree or not is for you to decide but it is worth pondering.

Sport has long played a central role in the development of young leaders. Victorian schools introduced team sports in order to teach leadership and the importance of valuing teams. The world has evolved but maybe the structures have not as much?

The importance of leadership is well documented but do we invest enough in it? Arguably not. There are holes in the US argument as although it creates strong community understanding, the world has moved on and there is a need for a broader understanding of a far more multi-cultural and cosmopolitan world. It is one of the more exciting aspects of modern culture; just how different cultural perspectives can bring new insight and value. The need is for far broader growth mind-sets in leadership which seek to develop, question and learn.

One of the major critiques of the last two years is just how so many business leaders have not adapted their models from the tried and tested. The landscape is shifting, the world is moving on and yet still many return to how things were in 2015-19. Where has been the vision many ask?

It is only now that there is a shift beginning to be seen as a growing realisation begins that things will not simply return to how they were. Many quote their revenue figures today v a 2019 benchmark but the reality is that one needs to achieve 120% of the 2019 level to be equal.

Does the traditional supply chain model still function and will it be as effective in 5 years’ time? The consumer will not be able to eat out as much as they were able to pre-pandemic, so how does the high street change? How has the consumer changed? Many are drinking less, so what will see greater growth?

If there was a need for new leaders to emerge to challenge the established, it is now. It will take time and there is a need now to develop new structures and frameworks which do develop leaders.

Still, there are so many saying that the development processes of the past ten years have been effective. Yet all the facts say otherwise. There is a good reason why the level of disengagement between leadership teams and talent is so high; why a reputed 43% are now looking for new roles.

Where the US argument is correct is that leadership grows with strong culture and communities. This has been missing and this is where there is a need of focus. It is not more internal awards or celebrations but genuine strong values and engaging leadership which does hold high values. The emerging generations do ask more but this was also the case in the 1960s and this laid the ground for a great generation to emerge in the 1980s and 90s. It is now for that generation to pass on the baton by preparing the ground for the future generations.