DEVELOPING (GROWING) LEADERS
Ask any CEO or senior manager in almost any organisation whether leadership is important and whether there is a need to do more to develop it and the answer will invariably be “Yes”. But when they are asked to describe what they are doing about it, they very often will be rather vague, sketchy, and defensive. It becomes obvious that many see leadership and management as much the same thing, and while management development is afforded priority, sincere and comprehensive leadership development is paid lip service.
Some answers on what should and could be done and why are provided in two recent acquisitions to our library. They are:
How to Grow Leaders by John Adair, Kogan Page, London, 2005, and Naked Leadership by David Bentley, Success Press, North Sydney, 2005.
How to Grow Leaders
Professor Adair is the author of 30 books on leadership and is an international adviser on leadership development. We base our leadership development methodology and training on his concept of Functional Leadership, which identifies the interrelated needs of achieving the task (at any level), building and maintaining the team, and developing the individuals. The model also defines the key functions leaders must ensure are carried out to achieve a balance between these competing but inseparable needs. In addition to Adair’s functions, we identify and teach, within a framework of management, the basic values, attitudes, behaviours and skills essential to leaders if they are to create the environment in which their people can be successful.
Adair, an historian, is a skilful author who uses words carefully and sparingly. His book is in two parts and in Part 1: Exploring Leadership – A Personal Odyssey, he describes his leadership philosophy developed over many years of research and practical experience. He deals with: The Qualities Approach; The Group or Functional Approach; Leaders or managers?; The Situational Approach; and, Levels of leadership.
In Part 2 Adair identifies Seven (Growth) Principles: (1) Training for leadership; (2) Selection of potential leaders; (3) Line managers as leadership mentors; (4) The chance to lead; (5) Education for leadership; (6) A strategy for leadership development; and (7) The role of the chief executive.
Adair believes that while senior managers can benefit from leadership education and development, the best results are achieved at the ‘coalface’, that is, at team leader level. This is because that if, by the time people reach senior management they have not undergone leadership development, most find it difficult to change. Younger people are more open to learning and if well selected and given training in preparation for their leadership role, they start from a firm basis. They are then “fertile ground” for line managers (those who are leaders!) to coach, challenge and mentor them for eventual higher level leadership positions.
Adair stresses that the role and example of the CEO is vital in all this. If he or she is not genuinely interested in and supportive of leadership development, leaders will not grow to their potential within the organisation. The example must start at the top, and as he quotes Albert Schweitzer:
Setting the example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means
As might be inferred from the name, Naked Leadership is very different in style to How to Grow Leaders. David Bentley’s background is in the armed services (RAAF and the Army Reserve Commando Regiment), and in business as a manager mainly with Continental Airlines in the US and Virgin Blue in Australia. He has also established Naked Leadership as a training organisation. David impresses as an intelligent, brash, energetic and down-to-earth individual who has written a book that is entertaining, practical and useful. His book has 19 chapters and contains much good advice, a great deal of which is similar in nature to that contained in How to Grow Leaders. Not as succinct as Adair, his writing is wordy and he tends to repeat the same or very similar themes in several places. But this does not detract from the core of his message, as particularly for the tyro reader, repetition can progressively reinforce the key points about which Bentley is obviously quite passionate.
The pages contain many vignettes about good leadership and each chapter concludes with Naked Essentials – a summary of key points. Examples of some of the essentials Bentley identifies are:
“The Naked Leader’s four-part reality check:
- Leadership is not about you, it’s about them…
- Without your team you have no job…
- If you meet their needs, they will meet yours…
- It is only through their efforts that you succeed…”
“More guidelines for effective leadership:
- Poor employee performance should never be a surprise.
- We are here to serve the needs of the team, so that they can serve ours.
- We are here to monitor, to train, assist, educate, develop, coach and mentor our staff.
- Anything less is unacceptable and a sign of laziness or inability.”
Straight forward, useful stuff and a good read!
Peter McDougall February 2006