Tag Archives: Education and Training

Our Leaders of Tomorrow

Who are our next generation of leaders – who is going to step up and take the reins?

 Lead In, Lead On: Leaders and Culture

One of the key issues that I continue to note is that many companies are not adept at identifying the gaps in their business. This includes gaining a genuine and methodical understanding of leadership practices and effectiveness in the organisation. It is very difficult to solve an issue that is not identified or put another way, a question unasked remains unsolved. Non-awareness can be due to various reasons often cultural, political or personal. In a broader, strategic sense this lack of identification can be seen in the outcomes and sub-cultures born out of poor leadership. Leadership development is a theme explored in a recent article in the InsideHR magazine titled, The Best leaders: Few and Far, Born Not Made.

A significant leadership shortage is looming over the world…Leadership is in crisis. Baby boomers are retiring and fewer Gen Y’s want to step up to the plate, creating a massive gap. Quality leaders are now hard to find. We have some data here on 3000 Australian leaders and 50 percent of the leaders in our study are creating environments that are demotivating for people.

If identification and subsequent action is not a deliberate and discussed corporate goal, then other seemingly more critical focus areas will be followed instead. Denial of leadership ineffectiveness in the first place means that businesses ignore the existing issues and not enable future growth in individuals and culture as a result.

Part of the problem is that there are too many leaders who just don’t measure up.

Another related issue is the mismanagement in effort and action for those leaders who are not capable of effectively leading and developing their teams. It is a corporate and social responsibility to ensure we provide the platform, support and opportunity for leaders to contribute and grow in their roles. In my experience this is most commonly performed poorly, with the effort to change and address challenges seemingly too difficult, or is not performed at all.

I have been in positions where individual employees have been dismissed based on poor, ongoing performance and behaviour – some who are long-term employees. When this is discussed at senior levels, there is acknowledgment that these team members had been a ‘problem’ for many years in some cases. My response in return is always, if this was a known issue, then why was no action taken to either develop or remove them? To date, there has never been a reasonable response to this question.

Denial, ignorance and/or laziness to act only lead to dismal results. Is this something you are prepared to accept…or do you wish to alter the outcomes by changing your contribution? A challenging question to answer and even more so to exploit. It is an important query however, reflecting the tytpe of issue highlighted by poor leadership practices and a culture that accepts varying degrees of mediocrity.

Creating a regular process to identify actions for the development of your leaders is an important step. This may form part of a bi-annual review, linked to other formal appraisal or assessment processes. A quarterly review of the progress, goals, contribution and direction of all team members could act as a catalyst for discussion.

A focus on how results are achieved as well as focusing on the end results themselves adds more value to the process. How we get there is as important as the outcome, enabling relationship-building, trust and process improvement throughout the process, amongst other benefits. When we focus on the outcome only, there is a tendency to cut corners and drive aspects of culture that ignore many necessary positive aspects…and often drive negative elements of culture also. This is just as important when focusing on leadership as a contributor to and receiver of cultural growth initiatives. The InsideHR article highlights 5 key leadership trends:

1. A shortage of leaders means there will be a gap in middle managers.
2. Succession planning is likely to be the hot issue ahead.
3. The best companies will be out recruiting future leaders.
4. The shortage of leaders will shape HR strategies.
5. There will be a heavy focus on leadership training.

A willingness to acknowledge the gaps in leadership and developing a culture of learning and growth, along with succession planning steps is a useful next stage. The challenge for many organisations is their willingness to spend the time and funding to understand the existing situation and culture. Considering the current status of individual leaders and the organisational leadership position should be part of the review process.

A blind hope that culture and leadership will somehow ‘look after itself’ is naive and poor business practice. The effort and discussions at senior levels that drive culture and direction can be difficult. However the benefits of developing strength in leadership now and for the future can be seen and felt…now and in the future.

How does your business stack up?

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Learning To Lead

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.

Learning To Lead: Lead In, Lead On and CoachStation

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.” -
Ralph Nader

(1)    http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2013/02/18/the-most-successful-leaders-do-15-things-automatically-every-day/

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Leadership, Employee Relationships and Development

Has the role and context of leadership changed over the last few decades and if so, in what ways?

Leadership fundamentals continue to be tweaked and challenged, however ultimately the base requirements for effective leadership remain the same. The environment and cultures within which we lead continue to evolve also. Technology, systems, the global nature of work and various other changes to the modern work world all influence the inputs required and outputs gained from leadership and the capabilities most employers and employees are looking for.

I recently read with interest two articles in the July edition of the Financial Review – Boss magazine titled, ‘The New Employer-Employee Contract’ and ‘Crisis in Business Leadership’.

For most of the 20th century the compact between employers and employees was based on loyalty. That is now gone, replaced…by a transactional laissez-faire approach that serves neither party well. A workable new compact must recognise that jobs are unlikely to be permanent but should encourage lasting alliances nonetheless. The key is that both the employer and employee seek to add value to each other. Employees invest in the company’s adaptability; the company invests in employees’ employability. Three simple policies can make this new compact tangible. They are: hiring employees for explicit ‘tours of duty’; encouraging employees to build networks and expertise outside the organisation and establishing active alumni networks to maintain career-long relationships.

A recent study demonstrates the inherent risks and current state of leadership. The propensity for ‘people in charge’ to be focusing on the traditional management requirements for their roles as opposed to leadership continue to be an issue. The opportunities for smaller businesses to develop a point of difference through leadership flexibility and agility based on reduced bureaucracy and opportunity to act and react more quickly is highlighted. Additionally, there is a clear delineation in a view of the organisations ability and willingness to dedicate time, funding and energy to leadership development, depending on the level of the business an individual works within.

The verdict from the University of Sydney’s and Boss’s second survey of executives is that our workplaces also suffer a failure of leadership; at least from the perspective of senior managers.

We interviewed members of The Financial Review Business Leaders panel and 137 mid-level and senior manager completed an online survey. Those in middle management ranks are more optimistic about the way organisations are run. But a quarter of senior business executives warn that their companies are being over-managed and under-led. Just over 5 per cent think that developing good leaders is something their company takes seriously. Only 11 per cent believe their business excels at identifying future leaders, according to research.

Too much focus on management – not leadership

“We focus, as people come up through their careers, on their management ability – are they able to drive a profit or run [the business] most efficiently – rather than leadership,” Lord says. “Management skills aren’t as important because you can build the right team around you.”

The overwhelming feedback was that companies’ “management systems reward financial performance rather than leadership skills”. The clear message is for more “time and recognition” to be dedicated to developing leadership experience.

Results and data from the survey also found:

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