One of my favourite business stories:
One day Little Johnny came home from school and asked his mother why Dad was always working late and why he had to bring work home as well. Mommy replied that daddy has a very important job and can’t get all his work done at the office so he has to work in the evenings as well.
Little Johnny thought for a moment: “Then why don’t they put Dad in the slow group?”
In a recent Deloitte study on UK Human Capital Trends 2014, leadership development ranked the number one concern for UK companies. I suspect a global survey would find the need for more leaders and leadership development to be high on most senior executive’s wish list.
But what exactly do we mean by “leadership development”?
When I look across my years of experience and talk with senior executives, I find a wide range of differing definitions. Some are adamant that leadership development means finding and training high-potential managers and executives for senior executive roles. Giving them the various experiences, jobs and advanced business training required to step up into senior leadership positions.
In other cases, “leadership development” is seen as either coaching for special needs, training for skills, personal development and communication training, and even team building programs get lumped under leadership development.
And who are the most likely recipients of the majority of leadership development? Managers and mid-level executives of course!
But could we be missing something important? What if instead of focusing on high-potential managers and executives, we decided to build a “culture of leadership” at all levels? Which might have the greatest ROI and impact on company performance, leadership training for advancement or developing leadership skills at all levels?
Leadership is taking accountability and solving problems. ~Colin Powell
Developing leaders or developing leadership?
Every employee can be a leader, no matter what level. Especially if we define leadership as a set of behaviours and not just job or function knowledge.
Instead of asking: How do we develop key staff for higher level positions and responsibilities; perhaps we should be asking: How do we instill leadership behaviours in all employees?
Leadership is not knowledge as much as it is action; being accountable to fix it or see that it gets fixed, help a customer rather than passing them to someone else, solving problems rather than pushing them upwards or just saying, “sorry, not my department”, or “I’d like to but I don’t have the authority . . . ”
What if your company had a fundamental culture of leadership? What might that look like? The benefits are many: fewer lost customers, faster problem resolution, greater teamwork, more innovation and creativity,challenge ideas to make them better, everyone takes accountability for safety, quality, ethics, customer satisfaction.
A Culture of Leadership is far more effective than developing more senior executives. Think about it.
And thanks for joining the conversation.
John R Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
+44-7833-493-999 uk mobile
Just Published: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture
PS: John also writes thriller novels