Sunday, December 14, 2014

Are We Developing Effective Future Leaders?

William Maxwell highlights how “many of us are paying an unprecedented price for the rightsizing of the 1990s and the resulting abandonment of leadership development. We seem to be struggling to find capable, caring, C-suite leaders. In some cases, we see corporations seeking ‘boomerang’ CEOs and luring other C-suite executives out of retirement,” (p.5).
Although there has been a deluge of theories and research on leadership development one has to ask just how much of a real difference all this work has had ‘on the ground’ inside organisations. For example Googling leadership development will give you 84,500,000 responses, that’s over 84 million, so one would be excused for thinking that there must have been a positive shift in leadership in the last few decades.
Yet if one looks at the different groups on Linkedin focused specifically with leadership you’ll find over 90% of their discussions are focused criticising the current lack of effective leadership around the globe and on finding ways to improve leadership – even with over 84 million suggested ways of improving leadership out there already. So what is the real problem – it seems employees accept that their leadership can be significantly improved and there are plenty of solutions to choose from – so why aren’t we making progress?
Maxwell suggests that “the problem runs deeper, however, to the roots of leadership development throughout organizations. Just think about it. If we can reorganize companies, merge, acquire, or dispose of others, and compete globally, then why can't we develop better leaders? The reason is simple. We think that it is someone else's job or that we can buy C-suite and other leadership talent. Some might argue that I exaggerate the current leadership situation, but the subject does merit greater dialogue.”
Maxwell mentions one word at the end – ‘dialogue’ – and in the last twenty years one thing I have found inside companies is that they very rarely sit down and openly discuss leadership issues. I’ve found that 99% of employees know what makes a great leader. Get them in a room – ask them the very basic question – and they will fill a flipchart with the right behavioural traits and skills a great leader needs.
If you then ask them how many of these traits and skills they apply on a constant basis, day-to-day, all will admit that they don’t apply them constantly – and this is where the problem with leadership lies. It’s not that we need any more theories or research – we all know what it feels like to be led by a great leader – the problem is found on the day to application and implementation of the traits and skills we all agree should be there.
Maxwell reminds us that “we are accountable for developing the best leaders possible and, without question, the time is now for a ‘leadership renaissance.’ Several books on leadership preach leading by example, being role models, and inspiring our people. Inevitably, many of us do not embrace or demonstrate the challenge. After all, being visible, accessible, and accountable can be time-consuming and frightening.”
One of the quickest and simplest solutions you can implement today within your organisation is to get your leadership peers together and having an open and honest discussion about leadership in your organisation. What’s working and what isn’t – how much you all really know about the effect your style has on your staff and on your internal customers. Discuss leadership experiences you have recently had – both good and bad – share stories and ask questions. You’ll be amazed what you will learn and how this simple discussion over a cup of coffee can reignite your leadership in the right direction – where as a group you will start defining and learning effective leadership in your organisation. It takes guts and courage to start these dialogue series – but you’ll be amazed of the impact just talking about effective leadership can have on everyone; and over time you will start to have a sustainable influence on changing leadership and the organisation for the better.
Maxwell mentions that “yes, we think someone else should take responsibility for developing our future leaders. Only our respective C-suite teams can do something about developing tomorrow's leaders. The research is compelling. Change, driven and led from the top, truly transforms and sustains any business.”
So you can start today – start actively asking yourself how effective is your leadership – learn not just to manage by walking around – but learn to lead by walking around too. Learn from your staff and your peers and most importantly regularly have transparent dialogue about leadership in your organisation. This will have an immediate impact if you have the courage to question just how effective your leadership is and if you have an overwhelming desire to grasp the opportunity you have been given to become the best leader you can be.
Maxwell, W.J. (2006). Leaders developing leaders. Human Resource Planning, Vol. 29 Issue 4, p.5-7.

No comments:

Post a Comment