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Leadership Essentials: Where Digital Dependence Meets Human Connection

At the heart of leadership development is the relationship between the leader and the individuals and teams being led. Because of this, it’s critical for leadership development to include both the actions a leader needs to take to be competent and direction on how to form connections with others. This ability to connect with others distinguishes great leaders from those who are merely good and differentiates leaders who get things done from those who drive high performance.

But the stakes are high when it comes to “testing out” skills of human connection. If we miss the mark in deploying a hard skill, the downside can be very real, such as not hitting a sales goals, noncompliance with regulations, or the need to perform rework. Without the skills of human connection and human interaction, the results can be profound. Damaged relationships, lack of trust, lost motivation – interpersonal gaffes are trickier to bounce back from and reverberate through relationships.

The need to improve skills of connection is a core outcome of leadership development. Providing new leaders and managers with an opportunity, a safe space, to practice their leadership development skills with trusted colleagues and leadership experts is critical.

Organizations can help ensure their leaders achieve this success by advocating and embracing leadership development. But what happens when organizations want to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of leaders in a way that is innovative, accessible, scalable, and relevant? With the explosion of learning technologies, opportunities abound to reach new generations of leaders with an incredible range of digitally enabled options that learning technology expertise can support. But how do you maintain a focus on human connection when there is technology between them?

Creating a Human Centric Development Experience

The good news is that there are ways to take advantage of all that technology has to offer while preserving human connection. It’s more than leader and learner centric – it’s human centric.

Developed by the leadership division of GP Strategies, BlessingWhite’s new digitally enabled frontline leader journey, harnesses the technology that gives learners access to range of interactive options for learning that they can access anywhere, any time, and in any way they prefer. What’s more, we’ve found creative and engaging ways to keep the connection among the learners alive and well. Here’s how:

  • Community – By creating a sense of community among learners, connection is enhanced. Sharing aspects of a learner’s personal life and insight on where they want to grow and give as an individual invites a sense of vulnerability elemental to good leadership. When we see that our colleagues share a favorite sport, parenting struggles, or a desire to get better at communication, we begin to see similarities that create stronger bonds.
  • Collaboration – By creating an environment where collaboration is encouraged, so too do we encourage connection. Asking learners to hear their colleagues’ ideas and then lend their advice and support sends the message that we are not in this quest for self-development alone. Just as a leader needs the support of their team and others across the organization, learners need the opportunity to ask for, and provide, assistance to others.
  • Coaching – By providing the support of a leadership coach to act as a trusted guide, leaders have a go-to person who can help them illuminate what’s working well and what they might need to change as they test new skills. Like a facilitator in the front of an instructor-led session or a mentor within an organization, a team member who demonstrates strong leadership behaviors helps the leader to see highly interpersonal skills in action.

We are wired as human beings to connect and learn through others; foregoing this association eliminates the most powerful aspect of leadership development: connection. Creating community, encouraging collaboration, and applying coaching techniques are methods that reach across the technology and support human connection.

About the Authors

Leah Clark
Director, Strategy and Planning, GP Strategies Corporation. Senior Director for Strategy and Planning, Leah focuses on bringing new products to market and enhancing the participant experience. She works with clients to understand their leadership and engagement challenges and consults with them on the creative solutions. Prior to joining GP Strategies, Leah had her own practice in executive coaching and consulting. She is a certified professional coach through an ICF accredited organization and is a Myers-Briggs practitioner. Leah has over seventeen years of experience in marketing, strategy, and product development in a corporate environment. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member in the fields of psychology and organizational psychology. She has a Master’s of Arts degree in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Sociology from Boston College where she graduated summa cum laude.

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