Leadership and a leadership development process are topics we hear about a lot.
A simple Google search will yield over 78 million results. I see many providers offering solutions to business on how to develop leaders, many of which are great programs. I’d love to share my thoughts and frustrations as, for me, the issue is broader.
What is leadership?
Firstly, let’s look at leadership. I’m not talking about just those in the corner offices, or with ‘manager’ in their title.
Leadership is the action we can all take, regardless of title, to demonstrate how to behave in alignment with the values of the organisation. It’s how we can make a huge difference to our colleagues within the business by modelling great behaviours and holding ourselves (and others) accountable.
I believe we all have a role to play in walking the talk and leading by example, no matter what our formal position in the organisation. If this is true leadership, how does providing one-off training to only a select few enable the leadership capability within an organisation?
Leadership and your organisation’s culture
The culture of each organisation, positive or not, is the fabric of the organisation.
What we say, what we don’t say, what we do, what we don’t do all contribute to this. It’s the end product of the way we interact, what we accept, how we structure our work, how we value our customer, etc. It’s like a tapestry that has many threads woven into it and how leaders lead is just one of those threads. For leadership within an organisation to be aligned with culture and values, it should be woven into this broader fabric with consistency and broad application of key leadership concepts and organisational philosophies.
Is your leadership development process effective?
So, what am I really saying here?
Maybe we should stop engaging in leadership development process that is like sticking your finger in the hole in a leaking bucket. A one-off, band-aid approach that is not integrated into your culture will generally have limited impact.
Although these types of events or programs can be beneficial for the individual, to maximise the benefit across the organisation a more comprehensive approach is required. Maximise your L&D investment by looking at organisation wide approaches that are aligned and also tie into the organisation’s broader objectives.
How to implement a leadership development process that works
Let’s start with the why, the purpose, the values.
Yes, I know everyone knows this is the starting point but we don’t all ensure this happens. It’s more values in action, rather than values in print – you know the words on the wall I’m talking about. These values should be the guide, the ‘true north’ for every decision made in the business.
Then let’s weave in the necessary structure, processes and policies. Decision making, change programs and other day-to-day business activity should be conducted in alignment with the vision and values, and use the same consistent approach. Learning and development across the organisation should address the same themes, use the same language and continue to reinforce the values.
Any learning and development program tailored to a specific group should still demonstrate a clear link to the values and the methodology or approach the organisation is taking. Consistency and relatedness is key.
Ideally leadership development would become an extension of every other program and process in your organisation.
If we are able to approach leadership in this way the progression from entry level roles to more senior roles, or even lateral moves, becomes fluid and easy as all areas of the organisation speak the same language and value the same behaviours. If we can weave in leadership development to ensure it becomes an integral part of the organisation we will be creating a cultural fabric that is strong and beautiful.