I often discuss with my clients and students the benefits of formal and informal leadership, taking the view that you don’t need to have direct reports to practice and become proficient in leadership.
I recently wrote a blog on the Linked2Leadership website, titled Leadership Experience: Where Do Theory and Reality Meet? Since publishing, I reflected on my original theme and the many response and comments received. Leadership is a learned and inherent skill. My current role is focused on changing the culture within a mature and experienced organisation. However, the core elements of leadership are relatively immature within my team and we are dedicating considerable time and resource to ensure that the current environment of leadership risk becomes a positive element of our culture. This takes considerable work and there have already been ‘casualties’, with some people either incapable or unwilling to join us on the journey. This is fine, but I consistently challenge my leadership team to be positive that we can look any of our team members in the eye and know that we have done all that we can to support and develop them along the way.
We are leaders who will not hold people accountable for something that was not a clear and established expectation or standard in the first place!
The theme of leadership and its development within a team and organisation is always unique in my experience. Each culture and sub-culture has its own quirks and nuances. The ability to tap into an individual person’s motivations, beliefs and existing capability is one of the more exciting parts of my role. Applying this to a team adds even greater complexity, challenge and reward. I remain on the fence as to what degree these traits and attributes are inherent, as opposed to learned. I think they are an individualised, situational, personalised set of behaviours and traits that are more complex than I originally suspected. I seek depth to questions such as these by breaking down some of the key elements of leadership, when performed well.
It is clear however, that the level of support and reinforcement that occurs has a direct influence on development. Many employees in the workplace will tell you that their leaders have stopped being teachers. Successful leaders never stop teaching because they are so self-motivated to learn themselves…Successful leaders take the time to mentor their colleagues and make the investment to sponsor those who have proven they are able and eager to advance. (1)
Mentoring and accessing suitable role models are key inputs to leadership development. The desire and effort required are important points as it advocates that much of the art and success of leadership stems from being exposed to the examples set by other leaders and managers. Additional attributes include the desire and ability to:
- Develop others and create a team of people who are able to work autonomously
- Work within and as a team
- Be more of a ‘giver’ not a ‘taker’
- Learn to be OK with failure – repeated failure, without change or growth highlights a deeper issue related to self-esteem, self-awareness and genuine belief
- Investigate, understand and respect the key requirements of leadership
- Possess a willingness and proactive attitude to develop themselves and others
- Create an atmosphere of accountability, ownership and development within their teams
- Maintain a ‘future-state’, forward-looking and results attitude and focus
What have been your experiences in developing a leadership culture? Let me know your thoughts and comments.
“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” -
- On Leadership and Personal, Business and Organizational Agility (linked2leadership.com)
- Leadership Psychology – Are Great Leaders Made or Born? (business2community.com)
- Why Leadership Development Fails To Produce Good Leaders (psychologytoday.com)