Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Deconstructing Leadership Development


Developing leadership is the most effective investment any enterprise can make in its people. It is the most effective investment any organisation can invest in, but it is also one of the most misunderstood investments organisations often make. 

For organisations to achieve success across the complete basket of performance measures, from top-line sales growth, operations through to shareholder returns, developing the current and next generation of leadership is the core driver of tangible and intangible success.

The challenge for organizations is to understand the context of the leadership they need which varies over time. This is one of the key challenges I face when working with organizations, what type of skills do they need to develop within their organization; all depend upon where they are today and where they are trying to get to tomorrow. That context defines organizations immediate and foreseeable skill needs in its leadership, which once delivered, will open up the next set of leadership skills, which an organization then needs to deploy.

There are a huge number of leadership skills which leaders will need and use at differing times, these can be broken into three main groups.

Strategic Leadership Skills


The traditional skills leaders are most often selected for by shareholders to deliver and therefore need to develop are in defining the vision of the organization and in shaping the organization to achieve that vision. These primary role of the leader as a strategic business developer are often the most challenging to leaders as it is the most difficult role to deliver, mainly because it is the one undertaken the least and the most high risk to undertake.


Operational Leadership Skills


The second set of leadership skills based around day-to-day operational skills include acting as a role modeling, decision maker, situational leadership, and shaper create leaders who are good at adapting to changing circumstances.

Advanced Leadership Skills


The third set of leadership skills often defined as the soft skills, which always include communication at there core, are have been defined under skill sets such as emotional intelligence, motivation skills and succession planning. These skills, often seen as higher skill sets are often the defining ones in what makes leaders stand out in their field and why some organizations become benchmarks of success.

By redefining leadership skills into these three sets of strategic, operational and advanced skills, it helps leaders see what skills they need to develop to be effective in context to their needs and the organisations requirements. Leaders are not only real people, but they operate in real time within their organizations business cycles. Where the business is in that cycle drives the types of key performance characteristics, which the leadership skills need to deliver. That makes the definition of what skills a leader needs to deliver harder to define; it all depends of where the organization is in terms of performance results.      

Too many leadership support programs are sheep dip sessions of theoretical skills rather than bespoke packages focused around defined needs at stages of organizational and person needs.  This is often why leadership and development programs don’t deliver the anticipated results. The second reason why many leadership programs not deliver results is because they are theoretical in nature, rather than practical in application. So leaders don’t get to apply what they have learnt relative to their precise situation. This is compounded by a third failure of leadership development programs is that too many are in reality mutual support clinics, piling leaders into a mixed group of leaders and potential leaders all with differing skill development needs.

In constructing leadership development programs it is therefore important to put the context of where the organization is within the business cycle as well as the individual needs to the leaders themselves. The range of skills which leaders need across the three types of skill sets are significant, and while all are important, recent studies by McKinsey and others show that the most effective four skills that ultimately define leadership effectiveness are:-

1. Diverse Network Perspectives   


Successful effective leadership relies upon being outward looking by establishing effective networks with other leaders in differing sectors, differing cycles, sectors, and personality types, this provides leaders with the ability to base their decisions on sound outward viewing analysis and avoid the many biases to which inwards decisions are often prone. 

2. Being Results focused


Nothing succeeds like success in business; successful leaders follow through their plans with a passion and determination, by being results orientated leaders drive their people forward improving other aspects of their organization to support results through efficiency and productivity towards those results.  

3. Effective Problem Solving

The skill in in gathering relevant information from the tidal wave of data and converting it into intelligence necessary through effective analysis to be able to solve problems effectively is a vitally effective skill. This skill set enables effective leaders to take control of situations with one touch decision making.

4. Supportive Leaders


Giving time to listen to others, with an open mindedness to understand others challenges builds trust and is seen to inspire subordinates in their performance. Investing time in people and teams providing them with ideas to overcome blocks and supporting progress, is the final vital skill leaders need to have to be effective.  

These four core skills make the biggest impact upon leadership effectiveness, but do not distract for the need to focus on the context in which the leadership operates.  Different business situations require different styles of leadership, but the four core leadership behaviours above are a constant across all leadership situations and transcend the three sets of leadership skills which all leaders face in their role, strategic, operational and advanced. 

By developing diverse networks leaders build core skills in understanding strategic perspectives. While both being results focused and effective in problem solving leaders drive their operational skill sets and through being supportive as a leader, they enable themselves to develop their advanced leadership skills in getting the most out of their people at every level. So these four core skills drive the top-line behaviours of leaders under which all other skills can be developed and delivered. Without these four core skills todays and future leaders will struggle to be truly effective leaders.

If you are looking to develop leadership skills then click here 


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