In the October 2002 issue of Training and Development in Australia, AITD National President Adrian Morgan’s Connect article was titled “Where are our lost leaders?” He made the point that 76% of 1800 respondents believed that “leadership was a significant weakness in their organisation.” He also asked the following questions:
How else might we better contribute to the development of leadership capacities?
Are our current approaches making a substantial difference?
Do we need to invent new and better ways of building leadership capacity?
How can we best encourage organisations to treat the leadership issue seriously?
The belief that leadership is a significant weakness in many organisations is supported by the vast majority of reports of similar or related nature. So there is little doubt as to the veracity of the information.
What can be done about the situation? We suggest the following:
1. We must persuade key managers of the importance of being aware of the state of leadership in their organisations. While there are appropriate tools to gather this information, many CEOs are reluctant to make use of them as to do so may well reflect adversely on their own leadership ability. Techniques such as “marketing upwards”, that is approaching lower ranking but trusted executives to influence the CEO, might be preferable to a direct approach.
2. We must be able to convince key stakeholders, particularly CEOs, that good leadership optimises management outcomes. We must show them that the differentiator between good organisations and the best organisations is good leadership. Managers who are concerned with quantative short-term outcomes must be shown that leadership must be a key results area for all managerial and supervisory staff. They also need to be convinced that qualitative leadership key performance indicators can provide evidence that has long-term validity and will confirm that good leadership will inevitably improve both short and long-term results.
3. It is clear that current approaches are not making a significant difference and we need to do something different. When looking for new approaches we must be careful not to ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’. There are some fundamental truths about the development of good leadership and these must be retained. Importantly, senior managers must understand that it takes commitment, time and resources to develop good leaders. Leadership development is not a simple process that lends itself to quick solutions. Managers must be careful that new ideas and approaches do not fall into the fad category. Fads are plentiful and most are marginally effective, particularly in the longer term. They indicate a lack of knowledge about and commitment to the development of real leadership. There are no quick solutions, magic potions or silver bullets in this complex area of human relations.
4. To be genuinely serious, a comprehensive, holistic approach is needed. We suggest that the following key elements are essential:
analysis of the state of leadership throughout the organisation;
introduction of a single, well defined and accepted leadership model on the ‘what’ and ‘how to’ of practical and balanced leadership (this in effect becomes the leadership KRA at the various levels within the organisation);
design and conduct of tailored training and development programs that incorporate a variety of contemporary ideas and learning methods such as indoor and outdoor experiential learning, case studies and role-plays;
selection and briefing of program participants to ensure they are prepared and motivated to attend the training;
continuation of course learning through realistic, meaningful and challenging workplace action learning projects;
introduction of developmental feedback through regular 360 degree or traditional one-on-one coaching or mentoring sessions (the feedback must be directly related to the leadership model and in effect becomes the leadership KPIs).
establishment and maintenance of recognition and reward systems that encourage and support continuous improvement in leadership development.
senior managers, particularly the CEO, setting the leadership example they want in their organisations.
Adoption of these elements will clearly demonstrate the commitment of the CEO and executive managers to make leadership development a key part of the culture of their organisation. Their best employees will be motivated to take up the leadership challenge and will gain considerable satisfaction from their participation in the development program. They will see the organisation as being progressive and committed to enhancing their skills. The word will spread and the organisation will become known as an employer of preference in the struggle to attract and retain the best possible people.
In due course CEOs will see a marked improvement in their botton line and in the return to shareholders (or equivalents).
The Leadership Academy