Leadership demand a sign of the times
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Leadership training providers have diversified their product offering and pricing to match the sluggish economic conditions, Gary Martin says, while some new players have entered the space despite a fall in overall demand for the sector’s services.
Declining demand is counterintuitive, he says, because it is during tough times such as these that businesses most need good leadership.
Mr Martin is chief executive of the Australian Institute of Management WA, which for the past 60 years has delivered programs and services aimed at improving the performance of the state’s managers and leaders.
Mr Martin said many providers had witnessed a decline in the demand for leadership development, as the economy slowed.
As a result, he said there was increased competition among existing providers to deliver in a depleted market.
“Ironically it’s the very time that business should be looking to strengthen leadership capability through training to better respond to the challenges ahead,” Mr Martin told Business News.
“Though there are some signs that other companies have used challenging times to refocus their business, and that has included some significant leadership development initiatives.”
Mr Martin said training providers had diversified their products and services to cater for differing budgets, and this had also altered program content.
However, the basics of leadership remain the core content of programs, he said.
And there was a renewed interest in programs on leading change.
“Organisations are now also seeking programs that address topics such as digital disruption, emotional intelligence, and mental health,” Mr Martin said.
Leadership WA chief executive Robin McClellan said overcoming the vagueness of the term ‘leadership development’, and how it differed between providers, was a challenge she continually faced in attracting clientele, but course enrolments had been steady.
“Technical skill, the ability to do what’s necessary in your field, is the entry level requirement for becoming a leader or senior manager,” she said.
“But it’s the ability to engage, inspire, understand and listen, that determine whether or not you will succeed once you get there, and organisations are realising that.”
Despite weaker economic conditions in the past 18 months, new providers continue to enter the WA market, with the latest being WA Leaders.
WA Leaders chief executive Rupen Kotecha said he saw an opportunity to help businesses understand how to lead in an economy facing increasing disruption.
Mr Kotecha said the organisation addressed a gap in the market – servicing small and mid-tier organisations that don’t have the resources to run internal development programs as large corporates do.
“The rate of change is so quick in the business world that if organisations aren’t continually innovating to stay ahead, then they’re going to get left behind,” Mr Kotecha told Business News.
“For companies to innovate, they can’t do it in their own heads, they need to collaborate with the broader industry.
“And the difference between us and other organisations is we surround member companies with a broad range of business, industry and government leaders for them to learn and leverage from, experts who are practicing what they are doing every day.”
Aquatic Leisure Technologies sponsored two of its staff to attend the WA Leaders inaugural program, which ran last year.
Managing director Lew Beale said training and development was an investment in both the employees’ and the company’s future, and the Leaders WA program had allowed staff to network with like-minded professionals and benchmark with other companies, bringing best practices back to the company.