Stakeholder Leadership

Stakeholder leadership can make or break a business strategy, project implementation or change process. If you handle stakeholder engagement well, the various people involved in, or affected by, your project will buoy you as you navigate through your challenge. But failing to properly account for stakeholder impact could result in strong resistance, feeble implementation and negative outcomes you had not considered or intended. Stakeholder buy-in improves project change management on a number of levels, and is essential for good corporate governance. Leadership development programs can contribute greatly to your preparedness, as a range of advanced business general management skills are needed for good stakeholder leadership.

Making stakeholder engagement a priority from the start builds trust and puts you in place to accurately assess when and how to reach out to stakeholders. It is important to attribute appropriate resources to your stakeholder engagement: too little can leave people unheard (and unhappy) while too much can actually weaken your position. The lines of communication are key - listen to stakeholder perceptions, integrate these into your planning and cycle back information. Stakeholder leadership comes through knowing this process well and mastering the necessary skills. Your strategy may include:

  • Assign internal responsibility for stakeholder engagement action
  • Identify all stakeholder groups
  • Consult with stakeholders
  • Set the parameters of stakeholder involvement
  • Communicate, negotiate and manage conflict
  • Ongoing measurement and reporting

Leadership development programs and their impact on stakeholder leadership skills

Leadership skills:It sounds obvious, but to succeed in stakeholder leadership, your leadership skills should be at their most fit. A critical boost can come from leadership coaching programs available at good business schools. Facilitated by an executive coaching consultant, program participants are guided towards a greater understanding of their own leadership skills and style. During practical leadership exercises, the coach observes and analyzes participants’ personal leadership to guide them to greater self-awareness and a stronger sense of when and how to tap into the leadership skills that work best for them.

Business development strategy skills: Stakeholder engagement is inherent in your business development strategy, as growth opportunities require support from internal and external actors. The more clear and sharp your business development strategy skills, the stronger your stakeholder leadership will be. Use executive training to strengthen your general management fundamentals, expand and deepen your perspectives on the global business environment and develop leadership skills to improve your ability for sound business development strategy.   

Analytical skills: Knowing how to analyze a situation in its micro and macro elements is essential to stakeholder leadership, as you’ll need to count on your own critical thinking and analytical capacity. Quality leadership programs will help you sharpen your analytical skills using case studies and action learning. 

Strategic communications skills: Excellent communications skills are critical to stakeholder leadership. Good business schools offer executive training that targets advanced communications skills, particularly conflict management skills and effective negotiation skills. Negotiation training will help you learn to prepare with situation analysis, leverage awareness and leadership skills to drive the negotiation dynamics, and come out strong with concrete results. Conflict management skills training can help you learn to stay focused and in control of the dialogue to build a bond with the stakeholders and resolve conflict. Finding consensus that meets the expectations of all actors involved is a delicate yet critical skill for stakeholder leadership.  

Stakeholder leadership is one of the most complex general management skills to master. You need a solid, very broad base of business leadership skills to be ready to lead a stakeholder engagement process. A targeted combination of leadership programs from good business schools can help you bring the right strengths and skills into your repertoire for effective stakeholder leadership.