Until recently, it was largely left to chance that good leadership would organically emerge in an organization, a la Steve Jobs (like him or not, Jobs was great leader).
By default, leaders evolved from a process of ‘Survival of the fittest’ and some of the leaders that survived did so because they knew more about manipulation and politics than they knew about leading people. ‘Born to be a leader’ is a lottery model that results in many hits and misses. There used to be so much poor leadership and we didn’t notice how bad it often was.
Leadership development is a critical issue in all organizations – public, for profit, political parties, you name it. We now have the opportunity to use leadership competence to improve overall organizational output, and not just at the top. We are now conscious of leadership capability as a required skill up, down, and across the organization. Not everyone can be designated as a leader, but being aware of how to develop leadership thinking and make existing leadership work better in the infinitely variable situations the organization faces – every hour, day, month and year from now – is critical.
Does leadership development / training actually work?
There’s certainly an oversupply of leadership courses and quality might be questionable – graduating from a leadership course proves you have taken the driving test, not that you can drive.
The real question is … how do you operationalize leadership development?
Leadership is highly teachable, but it is a skill set open to interpretation when it comes down to how it’s deployed by individuals. The good news is that we have recognized that leadership comes in many forms – task-oriented leader, people-leader, servant-leader, etc. We also know, as Dan Rockwell points out, having one leadership style, e.g., savior-leader, has limitations. This can be learned and converted into action.
We live in a competitive world, (nature is one big endless competition), and conscious leadership allows us to make the most of competitiveness in a win-win way vs. the winner take all model.
Solution focused questions to ask yourself about your own leadership:
- Suppose my leadership capabilities got even better, what would I be doing that would be useful to others?
- What one thing could be better about my leadership abilities?
- In what situations does my leadership help others? What would they say they value about my leadership?
- Suppose I was taking a leadership development course, what goals / outcomes would I be focused on? How would that be useful to my organization?
So, how do we operationalize leadership development?