>When it comes to leader development and leadership development, something transformational is required, not simply more information about what people need in order to be a better leader.
While it may be true that people join good organisations but leave bad managers, I would suggest that leadership is bigger than the people who are in leadership positions.
While leadership is partly about developing individual leaders, it is also about growing and nurturing a culture of connectedness and caring within an organisation. Growing leadership in an organisation is not simply about sending someone in a managerial position to get some one to one coaching; in fact, that is sometimes a cop-out and is a great way for CEO’s to deflect responsibility from themselves for a broken leadership culture. A comprehensive and holistic approach to leadership encapsulates and involves all parts of an organisation, not simply the behaviours and attitudes of the leader or leaders. Because organisations are dynamic and interconnected systems, an organisation’s leadership development strategy must take this into account and recognise that all the inter-related parts of the system will generate the real influence of leadership.
The key word in all of this is ‘system’. You could identify people within your organisation who are in managerial positions and send them to one-to-one coaching or even to a leadership course, but does anything actually change if the whole system is not one which comprehends, supports and sponsors good leadership? The ground must be fertile before the seed can flourish. Leadership is more than the people who lead, it is part of the culture of the whole organisation.
We look at leadership as something which everyone in an organisation requires in order for the whole system to function effectively. The factory worker who demonstrates autonomy and problem-solving capabilities is just as much a leader as the line manager who motivates their reports to achieve greater results. The customer service rep who manages to connect with a dissatisfied customer and prevent them from going to a competitor is demonstrating good leadership because leadership is about connecting and communicating.
Installing and growing good leaders certainly requires new learning, but it also requires thinking bigger within an organisation. It includes having good recruitment processes that assess the capabilities of anyone joining the organisation, not just those in managerial roles. Do new recruits possess capabilities related to empathy, problem-solving, compassion, self-awareness? It includes having good career planning processes within the organisation, so that people feel they can grow and progress without having to move to a different organisation and can feel constantly challenged, rewarded and personally satisfied. It includes having good training and development processes, so that people can upskill themselves with a view to both performing better in the present, but anticipating future career paths. This implies that you know the difference between training and development: do you? Part of comprehensive training and development is sound on-going coaching processes, so that what is learnt can be embedded and supported. The caterpillar does not become the butterfly in a single moment, rather it develops over time.
Weaving these into your organisational culture will ensure that your culture is one where leadership is valued and nurtured.
We all know that being a leader is more than having the most up-to-date management techniques. It is also about being accessible, motivational, vital and self-aware. Both the technical and the ‘soft’ are essential. This means that neither technical skills training nor ‘soft’ skills development, such as that which an effective leadership development strategy prioritises, are discretionary. In fact, if ever there was a time to invest in the development of people, if ever we needed greater empathy, if ever we needed people who set out to achieve bold visions….surely it is now.