Leadership Platform has been engaging leadership and leaders for over a decade now. Our core motive has remained constant: empowering leaders to generate movement along their personal leadership journeys AND to then, in turn, empower their staff/teams to do the same. In short: the creation of movement (which is the essence and function of leadership) and the transfer of leadership (the ability to create movement) excellence.
To do this can be very difficult. Engaging with the “big people” – men or women sitting in big offices with big views – can be a daunting prospect. Many are at the pinnacle of their careers and “can’t be told anything”. We refer to these kinds of people as “old trees” – the kind that is no longer willing to be guided to grow in certain ways.
Do not get me wrong, these CEOs, MDS, COOs, Executive Directors and more, have a wealth of knowledge and experience that is invaluable. What I am simply describing is a condition that exists in many organisations. I’m certain we will not disagree on that point.
What can then be a real struggle, under such conditions, is the ability, as a junior member of the staff, to engage with and learn from your upper level leadership. Have you struggled with this?
The call to leadership is not a singular event, or a pay-rise and movement from one floor to the next. Rather, this positional leadership, and the call to, must coincide with a leadership journey – your own personal journey to a point of leadership excellence.
This is what we are talking about today: Leadership Journeys.
We can easily identify those that have walked a path that has brought them into positions of leadership, but what about their personal leadership journeys? An associated question: in spite of their position saying they are, are these people truly leaders? To further qualify this question, we can ask: …are these people excellent when it comes to creating movement in their own lives, and within their teams and organisation? This last question is the most important, and most revealing.
I recently sat with some friends, chatting about life, and, invariably, the topic of work came up. They had been working in a very difficult industry, under very difficult conditions given the past and ongoing market conditions. On the back of a couple of relevant questions, I learnt that while still in this industry, both have since left, during a regional sales meeting – where all the sales staff for the Gauteng area were gathered together – as part of the regional sales manager’s address, he singled out all those that were not performing at a certain level and then referred to them as “the rats and mice” of their company, proceeding to degrade and humiliate them. I was shocked!! How could a person believe that by referring to his sales personnel as such, he would motivate them to move their current performance to a new and better level?
Questions: Is this acceptable leadership or even leadership for that matter? Because he had a position and title, was he a leader? And the unanimous answer I must assume we are united in is “NO”.
The ability to create movement in organisations and teams is a complex and intricate process. It requires expertise that we refer to as “Leadership”. The skills and abilities that it takes to be a leader are essential, and natural leaders – those that have the innate and natural ability to create this movement – are few and far between. So we need to extract, analyse and transfer these leadership skills, habits, processes and abilities in order to produce other leaders…this is what we do, this is why Leadership Platform exists.
Going back to the regional sales manager. Where was the leadership ball dropped? If he was promoted to the position he was, then it is obvious that he did something to deserve that promotion. In this case, it is obvious that the consideration was not leadership expertise or knowledge. And this is the general trend associated with so many promotions that take place – people are moved up into a position of leading other people, based in and upon their technical performance. Technical performance is not leadership performance. Technical ability is not leadership ability.
We began this discussion by referring to old trees and the inability for a junior member of an organisation to engage and learn from their business’ “old tree”. The younger of the two can be referred to as a “young tree” – bent in the wind of change, because of the ability to be pliable and teachable. We don’t want our “young trees” to bend in the wrong directions, and, as we apply this metaphor to their leadership journeys, we need to ensure that our young trees are exposed to, and nourished by, sound leadership and life principles and practices to sure them up, and to ensure that the tree grows correctly. We’re insisting that you, as a junior, must engage, and you, as a leader, must allow engagement to take place.
Let’s consider another quick example: Adriaan Groenewald once referred to a very large tree in his back yard, which fell over and caused a lot of damage. It fell over because, when it was young, it had begun to form incorrectly, and this had never been addressed. Later on in its life, when a storm came along, it cracked at a certain point and the result has been described.
Our referred to regional sales manager is this tree. As a leader, he cracked under the strain of the poor results of his sales teams related to the ever growing, ever present economic storm we are all enduring. This cracking led to a catastrophe – the total alienation of a large percentage of his sales staff. So while he was looking to move them positively and promote added effort, the result was the opposite.
This is an example of a person who is on a leadership journey, but is seemingly unaware of it. A tree that is not being, and was never, corrected and nourished.
So the question to then ask is: How do we get young – whether age or position – people to engage on their leadership journeys earlier? Leadership Platform has this answer, but there is something that comes before:
And this is the entire premise of this article: YOU ARE ON YOUR LEADERSHIP JOURNEY RIGHT NOW, some of you unconsciously so!. This is a call to wake yourself up, and to engage this journey. My call is especially relevant to young people out there. The earlier the better!
Remember, no development will have an effect – lasting or otherwise – without a conscious decision to actively participate in your own, personal leadership journey.
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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.