We started defining leadership development in the last post by looking at the importance of truly serving our team members rather than barking commands. While that’s quite the noble concept, it’s far from natural for almost anyone moving into their first position with leadership responsibility. I’ve rarely seen someone promoted because of how effective they’ve proven to be in serving the people around them. Unfortunately, that kind of servant leadership prior to being in a position of authority is often overlooked completely or taken for granted. Have you ever heard anyone say “nice guys finish last”?
In almost every scenario I’ve seen where someone earned a promotion to a position where they now had responsibility for leading a team of people, it was based primarily on a strong ethic and excellent technical skills - both of which are extremely valuable in any field! But having those two important traits doesn’t necessarily translate into the skill set needed for achieving great results through a team… And simply occupying a certain office or getting new business cards with a fancy title isn’t very likely to morph anyone into a leader either!
As we’re defining leadership development, so we have a better understanding of it personally or for the people we want to grow into leadership roles, our first step is often in simply admitting that it won’t just magically happen… It actually requires a very strategic and intentional approach!
In the first chapter of The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell makes a statement that ties right back to this. He says, “working hard doesn’t guarantee success and hope isn’t a strategy.” While hard work is often what lands someone into a leadership role, that same kind of hard work is rarely what will make them successful in leading the team they’re now responsible for… Whether that’s where we’ve found ourselves or that’s something we’re seeing one of the rising stars on our team struggle with, we need to develop a course of action for filling in the gaps.
Depending on the person, the role, and the level of responsibility that comes with it, defining the type of leadership development needed can vary quite a bit. Keeping each of these in mind can make a significant difference in developing the right strategy to ensure the development process is effective.
One constant we can count on is that leadership always involves making decisions that impact a group of people rather than thinking about what’s best for ourselves. And that carries more weight in each new level of responsibility… Another constant will be the challenges that come as we’re required to have difficult conversations with different members of our team. Recognizing their communication style, and what fulfills them, can play a key role in whether a tough conversation goes smoothly or we need to pick up the pieces later on. And a final constant lies in our approach to our own continuous improvement. Much like recognizing a team member’s communication style can help a conversation go more smoothly, having a firm understanding of how we’re wired personally can go a long way in ensuring any plan we develop is something we can actually sustain. (I built an entire lesson on that in our Leading At The Next Level program a while back called Growing With STYLE)
So what happens when someone doesn’t develop but continues to advance in their career? I’m guessing you’ve seen that happen too… The higher someone climbs in leadership responsibility without developing authentic leadership skills, the bigger the impact this has on the organization they’re a part of. And as more individuals are impacted negatively by this, you can count on that turnover number we looked at recently to continue creeping up!
Another challenge I’ve seen quite frequently in defining leadership development has been in knowing whether or not any type of plan we put in place is actually working. In the next post, we’ll look at some simple things we can do - for our own leadership development plan or with the plans we develop for the leaders around us - to make sure we’re seeing a tangible return on investment.
With regards to the Leading At The Next Level program I mentioned earlier, we recently started offering a 14 Day Trial that provides complete access to all of the more than 50 lessons for just $1. If you’ve never seen what that program is all about, there’s no better chance to kick the tires...
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