Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who's Developing Tomorrow's Leaders?

“Don’t look down on anyone unless you are helping them up” – Jesse Jackson

Leadership, until recently, seems to have been viewed as some mystical skill that either you had or hadn’t, that either you were born with or you weren’t. Managers would self-appraise themselves as good leaders because they had achieved some tangible results, (and hadn’t received any staff complaints in the process) rather than in the method the results were gained. In too many cases, positional power is still used to cajole corporate results, negating the very concept of effective leadership.

Effective leadership is important because it has a direct impact on the organisational culture and its performance – anyone who has worked for a bad leader knows how demotivating the experience was and how this poor approach had a negative impact on your focus, motivation and operational results.

The impact leaders have on their staff is of critical importance and is beginning to get the attention it deserves. What is particularly disappointing is when I see managers in organisations that have developed poor leadership skills and who are oblivious to how bad they actually are. Leadership isn’t just about results; it’s about developing an effective working environment, driven by focused teams, where each team is lead by a highly effective leader. This means that in the best organisations great leaders are in fact leading and developing other great leaders at the next level in the organisation and so on down the organisational pyramid. Unfortunately, in today business world, there are still too many bad leaders developing the bad leaders of tomorrow.

Although the jury seems to be out on just how much of leadership is gained through nature and how much through nurture, it has been accepted that leaders are not simply born. Although nature may play a role, leadership development is more likely associated with the environment in which potential future leaders spend their early years developing their morale compass, and their basic ethics and values, rather than some divine intervention.

There have been various attempts, over the years, to identify the behavioural traits and skill sets required to be a ‘great’ leader. What seems to be clear is that great leaders embrace and utilise the following attributes;
  • They are honest,
  • They are passionate,
  • They are excellent visionaries,
  • They have excellent communication skills,
  • They lead by example,
  • They are inspirational,
  • They encourage best practice,
  • They excel at strategic planning and implementation.

Unfortunately, in too many instances, leadership development is still the exception rather than the rule and organisations need to realise that leadership training and development is a corporate necessity for sustainable future growth.
Organisations, starting at board level, need to urgently appraise the effectiveness of their leadership skills over and above simple operational results. This means the current leadership need to have the courage to appraise their leadership skills through structured discussion and 360 degree feedback. They can then proactively take charge of their own development, as it is the leaders of today who are setting the example and developing the leaders of tomorrow – and we need them to be the best that they can be.

1 comment:

  1. If we are talking in the South African context it is quite understandable that with a backlog of over 300 000 trained managers identifying and even training potential great leaders is a huge problem. Whatever criteria you use you do not need a scientist to see that the present policies of govenment (BEE and affirmative action) is costing us dearly and is going to cost us more dearly in future. The recent training summit in Pretoria confirmed this: nly around 30 000 new managers get trained per year and the backlog of 300 000 in 2000 is still standing around the same figure. Now a trained manager is not yet a trained leader - so your question is a very valid one " Who's developing tomorrow's leaders ? Some very skilled leaders of the past is being prevented by silly rules to get involved in this !