Once one moves beyond the lore and the hype behind leadership, what really remains? For most, it is another book on the shelf or a keynote in annals of your organization’s memory. Why is understanding leadership that important? What does it actually mean to Become a leader worthy of followers?
It is a widely studied fact that effective leadership is the differentiating factor between the good, better, and best organizations. Why? Because most people, families, teams, and organizations are so preoccupied externally on tasks and service, they simply fall inattentive to the needs of Becoming, Building and Leading. The better organizations may be aware of the importance of building leadership capacity but have a tendency toward “relaxed attention” and fall short in the challenge of execution. The best people and organizations intentionally hustle to Become Leaders Worth Following and subsequently build leadership capacity across the organization. This “pledged intention” is the only remedy known under the stars to create healthy and productive cultures in our homes, in our teams, across our organizations, and communities. Those who actually execute upon becoming authentically connected to the will and way of continuous improvement, realize a sustainable and scalable competitive advantage.
This notion of “becoming a better leader” is qualified by legions of experts in the field who write, speak, and consult. There is a glut or “gurus” in the leadership space and a widening request for training and development at the corporate level. In fact, according to research from the 2014 Corporate Learning Factbook, spending on corporate training grew by approximately 15% in 2014 to over $70 Billion in the United States and over $130 Billion globally. This trend is a very good indicator of the rebounding economy and should be celebrated. Unfortunately, when the economy slows, investing in the capacity of talent is often ushered to the back seat of priorities.
So while reports of training across multiple levels soar, actual impact beyond cliché and the obligatory “check” in the leadership development box at year-end, is quite thin.
There are uncountable books written by the top leadership gurus that show and tell how influential people became successful accompanied by practical tips to emulate. Authors and publishers sell millions of books, CDs and webinars every year but do little to create a common leadership language, a common leadership tool set, or common strategies to create healthy leadership culture. The inability to “mind the gap” in scaling leadership development beyond the executive offices is the crux of the problem for organizations and the boon of continued market draw for the event-based “guru” approaches in the leadership development space.
On-going studies have found that the adult learner in public space (70 people or more) forgets nearly 50% of what they learn within two weeks. Also consider that the most highly trained bosses across a myriad of arenas are not able to translate their I.Q. (smarts) into relatable content due to their underdeveloped E.Q. (connectivity). In fact, The Center for Creative Leadership found that 38% of new chief executives fail in their first 18 months on the job and largely due to poor communication skills.
So what factors make for an engaging and effective leadership development experience? What actually makes the investment in Becoming a Leader Worth Following worth it?
Here are several things to consider
Leadership development can kick off with a “Rah Rah” event, but must continue and progress. Leaders ought to stay engaged for a year or two around common leadership language, tools and strategies for true impact to be realized. Learning cohorts (CORE Groups) should be established across the organization with bi-weekly exchange of new teaching information and processing opportunities of new learning. By establishing regular meeting rhythms, Core Group members advance their frames of references and build capacity to become better equipped to solve their own problems and lead in times of real-life challenge.
Having a drive to develop is almost as important as the reason. Organizations that can honestly assess the strengths and deficits impacting influence are learning for success. Those organizations that can create this pathway while recognizing the unswerving truth that organizational culture consistently trumps organizational strategy are leading for success. Healthy culture is the ends to the means of leadership development.
Courageous Support AND Challenge
While it is essential to develop the foundation of trust and a supportive environment for teambuilding, most often, leadership programs are averse to challenge and strive too earnestly in creating safe environments for growth. The best adult learning comes from sharing courageous experiences of failure and risk. Leadership development opportunities must place real people in real life situations for genuine and lateral learning to occur. Case studies can be effective for starters, but genuine roundtable stories are the ones that must be played out for lasting success. The challenge of leadership stems from emotional courage. Mustering this courage is the pull of all effective Core Group experiences. True leaders are refined through the fire of vulnerability and risk. When emerging leaders are placed in safe environments where courage is validated, confidence is born and enduring success is strengthened.
“Healthy culture is the ends to the means of leadership development.”
Content that is relevant to one’s own experience and builds upon prior knowledge is “sticky” and stable. Leadership building strategies must integrate contextually across the scope of the organization. A “one-off” delivery may be briefly engaging, but in the long run, won’t produce dynamic behavioral change.
The capacity to Become exists for all, but most people rarely take the time to develop this gift. Leadership, when matured, is interwoven into the fabric of the organizational culture and affects everything. Just as effective leadership will lift an organization to next level performance, contrastingly, ineffective leadership will lead to under-performance and ineffectiveness. This is the very core of why leadership development is the lynchpin for success for all teams and organizations. Genuine development builds upon momentum and purpose, and is driven through meaningful and courageous context.
Healthy leadership culture never arrives accidently or overnight. Healthy culture is the underpinning of empowerment and opportunity and begins with YOU! Becoming a Leader Worth Following is the first step to Building Leaders Worth Following and Leading Organizations All Want to Work For.