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Developing ‘out of the office’ leadership behaviours


Ok ok, it's a couple of days late, but Anthony Etherton has a different take on the 'out of office' theme. Read on for more...
There comes a point in an executive's personal development where they're sitting behind a desk, in a room, being swamped with theory via text-heavy PowerPoint slides; and finally being handed a highly branded workbook and notes to slide into a desk draw back at the office, so they can settle back into their comfortable previous patterns. It just doesn't cut the Colmans anymore.
Obviously theory, facts, (or content) has a major part to play in one's education; but how to touch that individual so that content can be expressed in behaviour for me is the key challenge.
Like it or not, on the catwalk of leadership you're always on show. Therefore I'm offering that the evolution of the physical and visceral elements of an individual's leadership style is absolutely key in the development of their toolkit.
I would offer that leadership is a lot less about what you know and a lot more about what you do. Followers can't see your intellect because it sits inside your head-jelly. The factors that inspire or demotivate followers are the sounds and delivery tones of spoken words followed by congruent actions from a leader, whose behaviour is driven by values that resonate with their followers.
"The factors that inspire or demotivate followers are the sounds and delivery tones of spoken words followed by congruent actions from a leader, whose behaviour is driven by values that resonate with their followers."
Degrees, MBAs, PHDs; which Covey-esque habits you might form, or which of De Bono's hats you might wear on a Wednesday are all as nothing, if the learning isn't translated in contagious, everyday, value-driven, sustainable behaviours.
That is why I believe that real time/real world analogous challenges should be a crucial element in any executive's personal development plan where leadership 'behaviour' is concerned.
My preference is to work in the 'active' area of leadership because for me behaviour is the end point of the beginning of an individual's intellectual journey towards an effective career as a leader. There are plenty of others keen to feed the brain... I'm for filling the gut and the heart.
Some individuals are described as natural leaders, achieving it almost without visible effort or thought. They display natural charisma, intelligence, strength of purpose and a drive to succeed; which is great for them. How much more effective might they be if they were self-aware and conscious of how they achieve their dynamic style? In addition, how much more effective would 'non-natural' leaders be, if they both knew and could manifest the behaviours of leadership that create followers?
'Out of the office' personal development is also crucial to a well-rounded PDP for potential executives who will take on the mantle of 'leader'.
Psychometric testing is useful, but only as an intellectual indication of potential. Active real world/real time challenges are the more accurate active and solid proof of the intellectual pudding. Experiential programmes promote self-awareness like no form-filling box ticking exercise ever could. It also builds memories, helping to form a visceral personal history upon which they call for strength and the courage to face difficult situations.
Here are my ingredients for a fantastic 'Modern Leadership Pie':
  • Effective leaders understand viscerally the gap between their self-perception and the perception of those who follow them.
  • Effective leaders can manipulate that gap 'consciously' to get the job done in the way it has to be done in the moment.
  • Effective leaders are flexible, creative with an ego not too big to outsource some of the responsibility to followers.
  • Effective leaders know that creating an environment offering autonomy, mastery and purpose for their followers is crucial in finding solutions to 21st Century challenges.
  • Effective leaders know how to keep people awake, engaged and informed - in that order.
My view is that creative 'out of the office' development workshops are vital to create the ingredients for that recipe… of course; Do you think differently?

Anthony Etherton is director of the Courageous Communication Partnership

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