COO Magazine Q2 2024

2024 – 2026 Tooling executive leadership to meet the challenges ahead

General Sir Peter Wall GCB CBE MA

Leadership training for Executive managers.

Over the past two years Armstrong Wolfe and Amicus have come together to run bespoke development programmes for selected cohorts of senior executives of some our client banks. In the process we have generated a core offering that has obvious utility for the wider banking sector.

Banks are seeking enhancement to their senior level leadership capabilities, recognising that they have variable expertise and experience amongst their executives depending on the career path they have taken. Also, deriving optimum performance from a modern workforce calls for very deliberate leadership behaviours – it just doesn’t happen by accident, and there is plenty to go awry.

Leadership has tended in the past to be seen as a positional phenomenon – one that depends upon the status and authority vested in an individual by virtue of their appointment. This worked fine in a more deferential society with hierarchical management structures, both of which have been overtaken by more enlightened approaches.

Society is inevitably less deferential to authority as individual interests have gained primacy over organisations and teams. We tend to employ more matrix structures to generate better collaboration within businesses and solve more complex issues faster. The old ways are no longer seen as either effective or appropriate.

Broad business success nowadays depends less on heroic individuals in key appointments, and more on the collective momentum that can be delivered by an executive team as a whole. This calls for personal leadership abilities that are independent of positional power and the trappings of formal appointments. In contrast, the harnessing of personal power calls for a persuasive, supportive but nevertheless committed and emphatic style of leadership. It calls for the forging of effective relationships and building of respect and trust. Rolled out across a cohort of leaders this approach can have a real and rapid impact on working culture.

An ambition for this type of shift has led some clients to build a cohort of selected influencers, very often in the COO fraternity, to promote a more effective leadership culture and take their people with them to a new level of focus and achievement. These are the cohorts that have experienced and benefited from our programme.

Our programme is comprised of various forms of learning from talks to introduce new tools and techniques to discussion sessions and team exercises of both an intellectual and practical nature, the latter conducted outdoors.

It emphasises the importance of clarity of both purpose and intent, the fundamentals of servant leadership, effective communication and followership – a new approach to inspiring the next team down – and personal versus positional power. A new addition is the focus on emotional wellbeing of our people and the leadership techniques to deliver that.

The value of the programme has been proven in the feedback we get from participants several months after they have employed the techniques with their teams and seen the evidence of their worth.

This positive response is a product of careful design through listening carefully to client needs and wishes, coupled with the commitment and enthusiasm of the programme participants, which is always uplifting for those involved in running the programme.

What does this mean in 2024?

Looking ahead we see the need to adapt the programme to include emerging trends, with the aim of providing leaders with tools to deal with specific challenges, for example:

The fierce quest for talenthow we attract the right talent and skillset, develop and retain them and forge them into effective teams with good cohesion, taking account of hybrid working.

Psychological resilience to contend with the array of challenges that can easily overwhelm people who aren’t prepared, feeling confident or lack the support network.

The advent of artificial intelligence and machine learninghow we lead our organisations to harness these tools in a positive but controlled manner that manages the very significant risks whilst seizing the opportunity to employ data for faster, more assured decision making.

These programmes are generating more cohesive groups of executives who have been through the same experience with one another and therefore identify well together. They form a nucleus of active ambassadors for leading change in an area that couldn’t be more important, despite the rapidly changing banking landscape and technological advances: our people.

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