How to develop your emerging leaders

First the why

If you google ‘emerging leader programs’ you’ll get dozens of results, and with good reason. Business surveys keep telling us about the importance of leveraging talent and of developing manager/leader effectiveness. KPMG’s 2022 Australian Leadership Survey tells us that talent – recruiting, retaining and upskilling – is still the #1 issue, ahead of digital disruption and transformation, as agreed by 77% of leaders surveyed. The Gartner Report identifies leader and manager effectiveness as the #1 priority for 2023.

The problem is that most leadership training programs don’t work. McKinsey found four reasons for this failure:

  1. most of them focus on content to the detriment of context
  2. most of them focus on reflection to the detriment of action
  3. most of them underestimate the power of (pre-existing) organisational mindsets and culture, and
  4. most of them fail to measure results

The Gartner Report adds that “24% of HR leaders say their leadership development approach does not prepare leaders for the future of work”. And yet the future of work is what we have to prepare for: it’s a new paradigm. We need to equip our emerging leaders for that challenge. 21C provides a volatile operating environment in a ‘global’ context of disruption: climate, environment and energy crises, geo-political conflicts, socio-economic shifts and all this with a rolling digital/technological revolution.

And it’s not just the external operating environment that is changing. Future… well, to be precise, current workforces demand flexible, hybrid working, attention to individual wellbeing and career progression, shared purpose, along with solid remuneration and reward. It’s about feeling valued as an individual and team member and getting the rewards. (PWC Future of Work Report).

So that’s the “why”. Now for the who, what and how (and yes, it’s a bit about us, but stay with me).

Identifying emerging leaders

We think an effective emerging leader program starts with identifying the right candidates, who may have been identified as potential leaders and are wanting to accelerate their careers. These are generally people who have proven themselves as individual or team-based contributors, with demonstrated professional expertise – either technical or functional. These attributes are a given, but it’s a mistake to rest on these assessments, because so many companies still focus on subject-matter expertise as the signal for promotion, regardless of whether there is any evidence of people skills and a desire to lead others.

It’s important to also look for that readiness to move from individual contributor mindset to getting results through/with others via leading and motivating. This person needs a learning

orientation, to take on these new mindsets, methods, and practices of working and leading in a largely digital environment. They need to have a desire to build confidence and productivity in a team. They really need to be up for leading others.

Our ‘how’ to develop emerging leaders

Many emerging leader programs are ‘one size fits all’ affairs. The focus is on content, often with a fairly academic coverage of leadership models, practices and micro skills. The approach revolves around delivery of content for understanding and reflection rather than immediate action, in a training mode.

At Executive Central, we take a different approach. We’re not academics, we’re coaches. We’ve all got solid credentials and value these highly, but what we’re on about is getting rubber hitting the road with behavioural change. With our online Emerging Leader Program participants stay embedded in their workplace context, where they translate and implement new leadership behaviours and thinking into real time action. It’s interactive, action-oriented, and contextual. We think it’s an exciting shift of thinking on emerging leader development.

The Executive Central Emerging Leader Program is a multi-org program. After a 90-minute Orientation session, we provide 5 x 2.5-hour interactive group sessions spaced over ten weeks. Led by experienced coaches with demonstrated skills in leadership, our participants gain from group coaching and peer learning. We use a range of proven development modalities, such as the Gallup Strengths Inventory, our own Career Mapping tool, a Digital Playbook, Learning Nudges and more. For participants who opt for the optional leadership coaching component to further support the implementation of learnings, your coach will conduct a 3-way progress meeting with the participant, coach and manager; and deliver individual leadership coaching sessions.

All this provides a rich evidence base for change and mastery. Remember that McKinsey point about the importance of measuring results? We’ve also built in formative assessment of progress – by self, peers and manager – at every step, done in a way that builds confidence and motivation for the emerging leader.


Our next Emerging Leader Program commences Thursday 9th February 2023. There are a few places left, and a second program commencing on Wednesday 7th June.

If you’d like more information, or to have a chat to us about your content, please email us at [email protected] or call 1300 737 495.
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