Business owners, and those with positional power or authority, are busy people. They rarely have the time they need to think through strategies in detail, and evaluate the results that these strategies drive. This is certainly true regarding their strategy (or lack of strategy) to effectively develop the leaders they need throughout their organization – to run and grow their business.
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In today’s business environment developing the leaders your organization needs to succeed and grow is more critical than ever. Yet, most business owners fail to have an effective plan to develop these leaders. What, besides being busy, drives this lack of effective development planning? Well, there is a general lack of understanding of how to effectively develop leaders – driven by a number of false assumptions.
The False Assumptions about Leadership Development:
- Leaders are born, not made.
Of course, leaders are born. We’re all born. But genetics, or our personality, don’t determine if we will be effective leaders or not. Leadership is not a personality, it’s a set of knowledge and skills – a skill set. And it is absolutely a teachable/learnable set of knowledge and skills. I’ve trained effective leaders with wildly (and I mean wildly) different personalities. Leadership operates on ‘laws’ (principles), learn those laws and you learn to lead. Ignore those laws, either intentionally or through lack of awareness, and leadership will be a struggle; a constant frustration in life. And the challenge is, you are rarely even aware of what the problem really is.
Leaders are made, one day, and one person at a time.
- ‘Experience is the best teacher’ for leaders.
This is one of those sayings that is often repeated…and unfortunately, in this case, is not true. Why? Three reasons.
First, experience needs to be evaluated, otherwise it’s just ‘experience’. (I relate it to the phrase, “Practice [alone] doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.”) Experience must be evaluated to provide the opportunity for learning.
Second, experience can’t be controlled. There’s no guarantee that the individual will face a situation that can teach them the desired aspect of leading. If I worked at Microsoft I couldn’t just walk into Bill Gates’ office and say, “Hey Willy, what do you say I run the company for 6 months or so, just to learn a thing or two about leadership?” Not gonna happen. Nor is general ‘experience’ going to effectively teach a person what they really need to know about leadership. Just doesn’t happen.
Third, experience takes a long time. It took John Maxwell, the world’s #1 authority on leadership (and my business partner), roughly 25 years to identify ‘the 21 irrefutable laws of leadership’. I can not only teach those laws, but also help you learn to apply those laws in your daily life, in 8 weeks or so. Now I’m no math genius, but I know that 8 weeks is a quite a bit faster than 25 years!
- Everyone has their own style, which can’t (or shouldn’t be) be changed.
While true, any leader with much experience has developed a ‘style’, it has rarely been developed intentionally, nor is the best they can be. Our leadership ‘style’ is really a combination of our personality, what we ‘know’ about leadership. But leadership is 95% (or so) knowledge and skill. And think, for a minute, about how we typically acquire that knowledge: it’s a fairly random walk through the leadership landscape. We get a management position. Our boss says something like, “Good luck. I’ll let you know when you screw-up.” We do the best we can. We stumble upon a few things. Some good, some not so good. The only problem is, we don’t really know which is which. So over time we just, not so confidently, keep doing what we’ve always done, and simply describe it as our ‘style’, and defend it regardless of how effective it is.
Leadership, as a set of knowledge and skills, is best developed through an intentional combination of structured training and real-world experience – to provide the opportunity to adopt and have time to practice those skills.
- A single, one-off, basic leadership (often really supervisory training or HR policy) training session is enough.
Leadership knowledge is a set of principles and practices (knowledge and skills). At its core, leadership development is about improving the thinking of the leader (both what a person thinks about and how they think about it), so they can change how they behave in the situations that call for leadership. And changing how a person thinks doesn’t happen in a single event. We don’t just read a single leadership book, or just attend one ½ day leadership seminar, and walk into the office on Monday morning as a brilliant leader. Just doesn’t happen. One of the ‘irrefutable’ laws of leadership is that ‘leadership is developed daily, not in a day.’ Effective leadership development required an intentional combination of structured training and real-world experience, over time.
- I can’t afford to develop my leaders the right way.
Okay, this one is too obvious, right? The question is, ‘so how’s that working for you?’ Are you really getting the performance from your people that is truly possible? As John says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” And everything includes company performance, results, revenue, profits, growth, employee engagement, retention…everything.
I apologize for the obvious nature of this questions, but ‘can you really afford not to develop your leaders?’ Have you thought about what it’s costing you not to develop your leaders? What’s not happening because you haven’t developed the leaders you need (and will need in the future)?
If you’re ready, or interested, we can help. Find out how right here (link to Critical Insight Group’s Leadership page).
Question: What are you missing out on because you haven’t adopted an effective leadership development program for your organization?