Case studies in leadership development only work when we learn from them. Indeed, the proverbial practice of standing on the shoulders of giants is meant for us to see off into the distance to view not just threats but opportunities to get better.
The hardest aspect of business operations isn’t expanding technology or even raising activity through the sales pipeline. The hardest aspect goes deeper than that: leadership development. As mentioned in the book, leadership development is key to turning a traditional organization into a learning organization.
Difficult and Different
When it comes to cultivating the skills necessary for great leaders to thrive, multiple permutations abound. The order of the skills has to line up to fit not just the organization but the unique strengths found in the leader. Far too often, businesses struggle with leadership development because they miss the key alignment points that bring together strong leadership candidates with a chance to bring those skills forward in a way that is orderly and within business objectives.
In short, cultivating leadership development requires understanding that the path forward is going to be difficult and different, not one or the other.
No Line Item for Leadership
Good leadership is the expectation within many companies, yet there is often no consistent system for cultivating the very leadership companies claim to crave! This disconnect is at the root of the problem: good leaders aren’t just found “in the wild”; they have to be developed like any other talent.
Companies have budgets for research and development, software upgrades, training processes, and office expansion projects, but few companies make leadership development that much of a priority.
Leadership development systems have their own pipeline concept. Emerging leaders should start at the beginning and come out with more applications for their skills than they had previously. This is a long-term approach that yields good results for the company at large, but it does require “sweat equity” and participation not just from the emerging leaders, but management as well. Assessments also play a strong role in uncovering insights.
Oiling the Gears for Success, Holistically
The most reassuring aspect of leadership development is that it has no expiration date. You can start at any time, even if the organization has been anything but a learning organization. It’s never too late to turn the ship around.
Here is the best way to get started:
- Open the floor. It is far too easy for management to simply take a proclamation approach instead of opening the floor to let the newest leaders speak up.
- Make feedback a two-way street. Not all feedback is good feedback; the best responses come from allowing honest dialogue without emphasizing hierarchy.
- Think action, not just theory. Once you receive and give feedback, what are the next steps to take real action on these observations?
- Document the journey. People assume they will remember the most important feedback, but that is not the case. Keeping a running log of observations and action steps is helpful productive, and provides an excellent way to measure progress.
- Mind the metrics. Qualitative data is wonderful, but quantitative data is equally important. What KPIs should be addressed first?
These points should serve as a starting point; the unique characteristics of your organization will undoubtedly add other aspects not covered here in this guide.
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