Why Are Leaders Like Snowflakes?
This is due to all of the factors that make humans unique. Here are some factors that impact how different leaders approach their role.
- Every leader has a unique set of experiences. One of the most important is their unique set of experiences as an employee. What did they learn to do or not do from their previous leader? If they worked for an effective leader, they will probably borrow from that leader’s approach. Or, if they have ever worked for an ineffective leader, they probably have a list of things they saw that leader do that they plan to never do themselves. For example, they may think, “I will never criticize my employee in front of the whole team.”
- Their personality and style. An extroverted leader will approach their work very differently than a leader who tends to be introverted. Neither is the right or wrong personality, their two approaches will just tend to be different. An extroverted leader is probably going to find it much easier to have lively conversations on a spontaneous basis with their team. An introverted leader might want to be prepared for a discussion with his or her team by having a list of specific topics before walking into a meeting.
- Their age and generational attitude toward how work should be done. Millennials vs. Baby Boomers vs. Gen Xrs are the classic examples. One area where generation can have an impact is rate of change or action. Many Millennial leaders are going to expect action at a very fast rate because that is the rate their world works. Baby Boomers may be more cautious about moving so quickly. Gen Xrs may be somewhere in the middle.
These of course are all generalizations, people are complex. Everyone’s leadership approach will vary depending on their total sum of experiences, personality and attitude. The key is self-awareness about their own approach to leading employees and teams.
What Does This Mean for Leadership Training and Development?
Traditional leadership training, as I wrote last week, tends to be delivered in seminars and presentations. The training might include breakout groups where participants have the opportunity to discuss and maybe even practice what they heard and saw. That would definitely be a step up from training programs that are just lectures! But, it is designed based on a ‘one size fits all’ basis. We believe that what leaders really need is leadership development that personalizes the program to the individual leader, and not just leadership training that is ‘one size fits all’.
What is the Difference Between Leadership Training and Leadership Development?
Leadership training is training participants to be more effective leaders. Leadership development is developing leaders to be more effective leaders. The difference is in supporting leaders in adopting more effective behaviors.
It is the difference between knowing versus doing. The goal of any leadership development program should be to have managers do the right thing, versus knowing what the right thing is to do. And that is across a wide range of responsibilities that a leader has. Here is a core list of responsibilities that a leader should fulfill to be effective, each can be addressed through leadership development:
- Establish and communicate a mission and vision
- Engage and motivate employees
- Build productive relationships
- Make good decisions on behalf of the organization
- Direct and delegate to employees
- Enforce responsibilities and accountability for results
- Overcome obstacles and deliver results
Aligning Your Strengths With Core Responsibilities Leads to Adoption
I believe this is where the rubber meets the road with leadership programs. Our goal with any development program should be for leaders to try out and adopt more effective leadership behaviors. We know what leaders need to be able to do. Their ability to fulfill those responsibilities is directly affected by their unique set of qualities and characteristics – the sum total of personality, prior experiences, generation and all other contributing factors. The more self-aware the leader is of themselves and who they are, the better they will understand what their strengths and vulnerabilities are. The effective leader will be able to leverage their strengths to be effective in fulfilling their leadership responsibilities and understand how their vulnerabilities will get in the way.
First, Know Thyself
In last week’s post, I presented seven possible components of training programs ranging from lectures to teaching others and the impact of retention. To spur adoption of effective leadership behaviors, I believe there are two additional components that are important.
First, any leadership development program should include tools to assist leaders in understanding themselves, their strengths and vulnerabilities. This could include a DISC profile that would help a leader understand how their personality and style impact how they approach managing others. Different profiles, such as Influential versus Conscientious, will definitely impact how a leader directs and delegates to employees. There are other excellent tools but the DISC provides an easy to use tool to help managers understand their strengths and vulnerabilities.
The second component for impactful leadership development is a support process that helps managers use their strengths to fulfill their leadership responsibilities. It turns out that people are much more effective in achieving great results when they leverage their strengths rather than trying to fix their weaknesses. This could take the form of 1:1 coaching, small group discussions and the requirement to apply different approaches to fulfilling leadership responsibilities.
The Willing Leader – The One Key Element Required for Success
There is one critical characteristic that a successful leader must have to benefit from a leadership development program. That is the willingness to learn, explore and adopt new behaviors. With that willingness, a new leader has no limits to their growth. We will call him or her The Willing Leader.
With these two additional components and The Willing Leader, the effectiveness of a leadership development program will be multiplied many times over. Stay tuned to hear more about how our 7 Step Leadership Program will include these two components!
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