“Leaders are responsible for both the big structures that serve as cornerstones of confidence, and for the human touches that shape a positive emotional climate to inspire and motivate people.” – Rosabeth Moss Kanter
How does one best become equipped for leadership when we know the context of leadership is always changing? That’s a question every organization must answer if it expects to prepare current and future leaders. It is a question each of us must answer in pursuit of our own roles that require leadership abilities.
Some organizations will look for “quick fixes”; they want to press the “Easy Button” and produce satisfactory leaders using as few resources as possible. They will establish an impressive-sounding series of workshops and run as many of their prospective and current leaders through this gauntlet of training as they deem possible, based on current resources and circumstances. Most of these training decisions will be driven by the felt need to reduce conflict among employees and their immediate supervisors, while improving their “communication skills” and political savvy in the process. The underlying belief is that “if we can fix the people we can fix the system”.
The Easy Button does not work.
“Put a good person in a bad system, and the system will win every time.” – W. Edwards Deming.
If the Easy Button worked, all you would need to do to evolve as a leader is to attend the right workshop or the right conference, read the right books and listen to the right audio-recordings. All you would need to do is DO the right things, without ever leaving the classroom! Of course, if you knew how to always do the right things, you might not need any development at all. [Stop here: if you took that last comment seriously and think, “That’s me, I don’t need any further development”, you may quite possibly be what is known in most circles as a “Lost Cause”.]
I am kicking off a corporate development program for a global manufacturer soon. I will be working with more than 30 employees during this pilot phase, each of whom holds a leadership position of some kind or has been recognized for leadership potential. From plant managers to aspiring production and administrative team leaders, our goal is to equip them for success in their Team Leadership roles.
We will work together over the course of several weekly sessions and follow-up sessions to ensure they are seeing results from their new focus as leaders, from their specific goals set during the process, and from their overall action plans that for most will involve both clarified professional and personal values, roles and goals. We will pay close attention to the current mission, goals and best practices of the company while helping individual participants develop vision, measurable goals and new attitudes and habits to excel in their personal lives and formal leadership roles.
Ultimately, our process and the participants will be measured NOT for doing the field work and participating in each session, NOT for being able to practice the “Five C’s of Conflict Resolution” or some similar rote meme, and NOT for being able to demonstrate their knowledge of project planning. They will be measured on how well they create a better context for productivity among their followers that serves customers well and makes a profit to keep the company alive and growing.
The subjects of conflict management, effective communication, time management, dealing with difficult people – all the typical “leadership modules” – will be covered in part through the curriculum I bring to the classroom, but more from issues participants bring to the discussion while we are together in a classroom. I will bring content that stimulates their thinking, but it is the intersection of agendas of the participants and the company they work for that will provide the real “materials” for the development program.
More than specific skills pulled from a list of “leadership qualities”, we will be developing in these leaders the ability to recognize the context they are in at any time and the attitudes, habits, values, knowledge, skills and goal-achievement ability to respond and lead effectively in context.
In effect, they will become better leaders, not just people who have completed leadership training.
The difference between this development process and other training programs is that we will pay as much attention to the leadership culture these people will help create in the future as we will the leadership skills they will need to create such a culture.
Ultimately, the team leaders and managers of this manufacturer will indeed lead the company to sustained success by being the architects of culture, the cornerstones of trust and confidence, and the examples of positive points-of-contact. They will shape an emotional climate which inspires employees to give their best and produces loyalty among a growing customer base.
- How are you measured? At work? At home? In other roles?
- How might others view you based on the culture and emotional climate you help create? How do you know?
- How beneficial was the leadership training you’ve had in the past? How did your culture change as a result, if at all? What do the people around you say about this? How do you know?
- Are you banking on workshops, books and tapes alone to increase your leadership influence?
- Are the opportunities you have for leadership development based solely on competency models, skills training or discussion groups? What are the possible limitations of these programs?
- How might a development process work for you if it helped you develop specific leadership skills, AND helped you consider new attitudes, develop new habits, achieve more goals, develop the culture around you, and help you live a more exemplary life?
- What if we could show you a process that helped you become the leader who develops the kind of culture that attracts the best people to give their very best? Would you want to know more?