Over twenty years of intimate involvement with Leadership Platform in leadership research and leadership coaching and training has taught us many valuable lessons.
Many of these principles and our profiling of top leaders have been published in this column and in books and other platforms over the years. We now wish to share with you our understanding of key elements required in development of performing leaders.
The general aim of leadership development interventions is to be in harmony with the aspirations expressed by the organizational leaders who make the assignments. These aspirations may be summarized as follows:
To help the CEO and HR leaders to build an attitude of leadership awareness and leadership fitness in leaders, much like people may be passionate about personal physical fitness and health diets.
Our interventions recently have evolved into making a tangible contribution to organizational imperatives, especially in cases where we are tasked to intervene at several levels of management.
In other words, the leadership development journey should be aimed at building leadership awareness, helping to move barriers to potential in the individual and organization and making a measurable difference to the success of the organization.
The leadership journey intervention pattern
The pattern that seems to be emerging from our experience in the field is that a successful leadership journey revolves around three basic concepts:
1. The outward leadership journey:
This part of the leadership journey is about exposure to the best mentoring influences. Examples of the best mentoring influences may be studying leader profiling articles, leadership books, spiritual sources, case histories of top leaders in various fields, personal mentoring, and learning from the mistakes of others, etc.
The outward leadership journey also involves exposure and mastery of universal principles of human behaviour and of positive movement dynamics. This deals with universal commonalities that we all face on a daily basis. A major portion of the outward leadership journey is about learning how to trust in processes that successfully move relationships, attitudes and situations. This is often not as complicated as it may seem and may simply amount to having the courage to confront negative people and situations with a positive and mature attitude.
The driving principle behind an outward leadership journey approach is that the greater the contextualization and big picture mentality of a leader, the more mature, confident and seamless he or she will be.
2. The inward leadership journey:
The inward journey is about understanding ‘Me’ and the infinite potential of the individual. This journey is inseparable from the outward journey. Progress in one leads to progress in the other. Failure to progress in one leads to failure to progress in the other. The leadership journey is a very personal experience because in all of us it is seen from the ‘Me’ perspective. The following elements determine the progress of the inward journey of self understanding:
- Understanding human motivational drivers, especially from a leadership perspective.
- The application of principles that help us to obtain greater clarity on negative barriers to personal as well as organizational growth.
- Insight into the extraordinary existing talents that lurk in each of us individually.
- The development of our own ‘drill-down’ capacity in order to determine the critical success factors of our leadership roles.
- Our drill-down capacity should also be exercised in discerning our leadership essences (LE’s), the motivational drivers that makes us unique and more aware of our infinite capacity to move barriers to potential. In discussing this principle with leaders in personal leadership conversations we find that they initially battle to find proper words to explain their personal leadership motivational drivers. It is only after careful discussions and soul searching that we become more aware of what our personal leadership essences or drivers are.
3. The becoming journey
Becoming a seamless leader is the culmination of the first two elements of the leadership journey mentioned above. The becoming journey is about being thrown into the deep end and learning to swim. In this manner we learn to become positive and confident leaders with the faith to move barriers to potential in our organizational occupations.
Our experience is that in following the above approach we may expect to see tangible and measurable results in moving our self and the organization forward in the process of moving mental, emotional, physical and organizational barriers to excellence and potential.
The leadership journey is in essence about development of a seamless attitude in personal and organizational careers.
In a previous article we wrote about the difference between management and leadership. The two terms are often transposed and may simply be a matter of semantics. We defined a key difference between leadership and management as follows:
Leadership kicks in when we ‘don’t know the answer’.
By this we mean that as soon as a perceived obstacle, problem, resistance, contention, and challenge arrive on the scene, this is when good leadership kicks in. A ‘normal’ manager may baulk when confronted with a potentially painful obstacle. His or her tendency may then be to blame somebody or something, whereas the leadership instinct is to confront the situation and trust in processes that lead to answers.
Recently I sat down with Patrick (name changed), a young leader who found himself confronted with a potentially disastrous situation triggered by the domino impact of the Marikana tragedy. I was impressed with the positive attitude of this young leader as he confronted the situation in the absence of his superior. He showed both inner strength of character and values as well as a balanced understanding of the bigger picture involving more than a thousand workers. In the light of the principles discussed in this article, it was especially inspirational to discuss with him his attitude in resisting a blaming inclination under extreme pressure and to look at both sides of the problem in an orderly and process driven manner.
On the same day as discussing the positive experiences of Patrick, I came across other leaders who were in a different state of mind. The threat of the Marikana syndrome caused a kind of paralysis in them. To them this was a crisis that was a severe threat to both their inner strength as well as their outward confidence in terms of facing unexpected developments from ‘outside’.
The leadership development journey is as much about personal growth and vision as it is about being a better leader. To ignore the development of the inner self is to ignore the source of our motivational drives. To ignore the development of the outward journey is to remain in a small world of prejudice and enforced limitations.
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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Louis on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.