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Create an advantage with smarter leadership development

Instilling new mindsets for a new era is the starting point for everything


I believe all organisations now need to empower as many leaders as possible to find new opportunities in this time of change.

“Arinya, you’re in this business. Of course you would say that,” I hear you saying. I am, but I believe the evidence points to a need to shift the mindsets and approaches of top leaders to development. It’s time they embraced the idea of personalisation at scale, to access some of the new ways to create advantages currently presenting themselves.

The recent past has taught us we can do more with less when we must. There has been a revolution in skills development that some organisations are using effectively. A recent survey by Wilson Learning Worldwide focused on what organisations are doing to create future-fit leaders in more than 750 organisations. Unsurprisingly, overall development investment was down, especially in leadership and talent development. My experience confirms this. However, there was a shift in leadership development methods, with resources being used more effectively.

The survey found a 19% increase in virtual-live development experiences, a 7% increase in blended experiences (using more than one medium), and an 18% decrease in just letting leaders do their own thing with self-directed e-learning, etc. Interestingly the number of organisations finding virtual live learning effective rose from 45% to 70%.

I believe this is because organisations have quickly got better at it. They learned they could touch more leaders and develop them more effectively. This trend is not surprising. What may be surprising is what was being developed in these sessions.

I have long been an advocate of developing new mindsets for this new era. Recent research shows that 66% of organisations now include leadership character development, either separately or as part of a leadership skills programme. This is beyond traditional management, leadership and interpersonal skills. Organisations are also developing leaders to be better versions of themselves as people, with a focus on ethics, empathy, empowering and developing others.

This strongly correlates with what I see in more forward-thinking Thai organisations. It is important to understand this is not purely altruistic. Organisations need leaders who can sense the changes in the landscape and new opportunities to create a competitive advantage. They need leaders who know they can’t do it all themselves and can activate their team members more effectively.

I think senior leaders who are serious about improving the potential of their leadership group should ask themselves and their development teams some questions to identify more effective ways to develop their leaders to create competitive advantage:

  • How has our leadership development approach changed over the last two years?
  • What are we doing differently, and how are we developing new capabilities for this new era?
  • How has our definition of leadership changed?
  • How are we now developing leaders to find new opportunities?
  • How do we plan to deploy leaders on future business building/critical business issue projects?
  • How can we more quickly turn development into applying new leadership on the job?

Developing the right leadership (in the right way) to create advantage is now imperative. Leaders are the keys to increasing productivity and performance. Leaders are the most important factor in keeping your best talent because they need to empower and set your talent free to find new advantages. Leaders show the rest of your team how things should be done going forward, and they hold your people accountable for meeting the new expectations.

And be smart about it. Do not let leaders go back on autopilot about their development because they are busy. Take advantage of virtual and engaging environments to engage and accelerate their development.

  • If you are the top leader, get involved yourself and teach them the characteristics you are looking for.
  • If you are a marketing leader, teach them about your brand personality.
  • If you are a technology leader, engage and excite your leaders about new possibilities.
  • If you are a financial leader, help improve their business acumen and share how to turn good ideas into financially viable opportunities.

These all require you to invest your time. However, by using technology you can develop and support many more leaders to seek and create competitive advantages. For example, in my organisation, senior leaders and I have “insourced” sales leadership development by contributing more. Sales leaders finding new opportunities do so by spending more time developing their teams. Even though we are busy, it is well worth doing.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Talk to us about how SEAC can help your business during times of uncertainty at https://forms.gle/wf8upGdmwprxC6Ey9