Developing leaders is an important role for any training department. With the support of senior management a strong leadership culture that is responsive to employee needs will be the outcome of a strong leadership development program. After all, it is leadership that drives productivity and motivation.
I recall a situation where an organization I worked for as a Training Director hired a new Vice-President of Human Resources. In one of our initial meetings I was proudly describing our new front-line leadership development initiative. She cut me short and said that there are no front line leaders. Leader was a term that applied only to employees that carried the title of Director or above. I challenged her on this but to no avail. She was adamant and insisted I remove the term leader and/or leadership from the curriculum of any training programs that were below the title of Director.
She believed that you can’t teach individuals to become leaders. If they have the natural skills they will rise up the organizational ladder to the senior level where the leaders belong.
Yet in the daily operation of any organization it is the front-line supervisors and managers who usually have the biggest impact on performance and culture. And we have all experienced senior leaders who display strong egos and show little leadership ability.
In organizational life there are two types of leaders: formal and informal. Formal leaders have direct reports and are responsible for the work produced by others. Informal leaders are employees at all levels who attract followers but have no direct reports.
Effective inter-personal communications and the ability to forge strong relationships are probably the most important characteristics of an authentic leader. Without them all other skills become secondary. In other words, you have to be able to not only talk but to listen and relate to others. You should exude confidence and be passionate about your ideas. Passion kindles motivation in others. But you should also be humble and open to others ideas, regardless of where they are on the food chain. For some, these skills come naturally but for others must be learned.
Firstly, potential leaders must be receptive to developing these skills. Utilizing Personality Indicator tools like Insights or the DISC model and learning empathic listening skills is a good first step.
Confidence comes with the successful application of these skills. and passion comes when you can express your beliefs, values and vision in a way that connects with others. Here is where the senior leadership comes in. It is their visible support that allows potential leaders to develop their confidence and build their motivation to continuously grow their leadership skills.
As Ken Blanchard famously said, “feedback is the breakfast of champions”. And feedback is what potential leaders will need plenty of as they transfer what they learn in the classroom to the work environment.
This is an important role for senior management. If they are not comfortable giving feedback they should be provided with the necessary training. This is how a successful enterprise develops a consistent body of practice and over time develops a culture of leadership. Senior mangers who are unwilling to embrace their role as leaders should not have direct reports.
Informal leaders should be nurtured and acknowledged because they carry a lot of sway in any setting and are eager to spread the good word. Their training should revolve around learning how to share vision and support strong cultural initiatives. They also make great champions of change initiatives.
In developing leaders, training and feedback makes the difference!