On a recent flight I continued my journey down the rabbit hole that is Simon Sinek’s “Leaders Eat Last”. I really enjoyed this wonderfully diverse and well-written account of great leadership development with a side serving of neuroleadership.
But it’s got me wondering… There is a big focus on leadership development at present and many providers doing good work and offering great programs. We have the knowledge and resources to make a big difference for those who lead others on a daily basis.
But for a leader in an organisation of low trust and high dysfunction, I’m not sure these leaders feel empowered – dare I say permitted – to make the changes necessary to improve leadership more broadly across their organisation.
The popular ‘tick-the-box’ approach to leadership development
An organisation may decide to provide leadership development to a group of employees to either increase capability or address areas of concern. This is sometimes almost a ‘tick-the-box’ kind of approach.
There can be a lack of consideration of the need to revisit learning and apply it on the job. And allowing time for reflection as a way to embed learning – forget it! Spending time getting to know the team on a personal, human level is important for building trust but may not always fit into the schedule.
In business models that are based on high reimbursability or utilisation, spending time on non-income generating activities can be frowned upon. To gain real benefits from investment in leadership development, organisations will need to change to allow the creation of teams with the structure and culture to succeed.
The importance of learning experiences
Another issue with generic programs are that they don’t always tie the learning to the way the organisation or industry works. While there are core elements of leadership that should be covered, an element of context and customisation is necessary.
Connecting the dots and attaching learning to real experiences is important for learning and memory creation. In selecting or designing the best program for your leaders, do you look to relate the learning experience to your values, culture and objectives?
Making real changes
If a leader attends an appropriately targeted and delivered program, resulting in real behavioural change over time, how free are they to make the changes within the organisation to increase trust and collaboration, to create a self-aware and high performing team?
Silos within organisations can mean a leader may struggle to influence beyond their own team, or even keep the momentum of change within their team. Often, it’s just too hard to turn the big ship unless there is organisation-wide commitment and support to do so.
What does effective leadership development look like?
I believe that for leadership development to be effective it needs to:
- be visibly supported prior, during and after by the organisation
- link to the values, culture and objectives of the organisation
- result in lasting behavioural change over time
- allow leaders the freedom to implement change as necessary for continual improvement
- encourage leaders to revisit content, reflect on learning and apply it on the job
- support the creation of life-long learners
Building trust within an organisation
Simon Sinek reminds us “Leadership is always a commitment to human beings.” Allowing leaders the space and time to implement true leadership through real human connections is key to building trust within an organisation. When organisations effectively position and support leadership development, only then can we hope to see real change.