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Steve Read

Adair International Ltd


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How to make leadership work in 8 steps


Steve Read offers some simple steps to get the most from your investment in leadership development.

It has long been understood that that far too much of the investment put into management and leadership development doesn’t have the impact that was intended. This need not be the case. The following steps should help organisations get the most from their investment.

1 Start with the business

The business strategy and plans should be at the heart of everything, including a people strategy, and within this, a leadership development strategy. How can we build the capability amongst our people to deliver what we plan to deliver? How will we lead them there? This makes sense if you think of the origins of the word "strategy". It has more to do with people than business. The two ancient Greek words "stratos" – a large body of people, and "egy" which comes from the Greek verb ‘to lead’.  Those responsible for HR need to be involved in the business planning process.

"Identify your potential leaders, and develop them in line with your business and leadership strategies.  Use your existing processes to do this."

2 Link all departmental plans to the core business, and to each other

Organisations easily become fragmented, and departments focus on their own issues. Leadership needs to span organisational boundaries, and collaborate at all levels. The leadership strategy should facilitate this by giving all managers and leaders a common language and the necessary skills. Having "leadership" as an agenda item at management/leadership team meetings keeps this at the forefront, and helps leadership teams to form (as opposed to a collection of departmental managers).

3 Recognise the relationship between management and leadership

These are different, but closely related, and leadership development needs to build both skill-sets.  A good leader will have management capability, and a good manager will be able to lead.

4 Think about the leaders of tomorrow

Promoting technically capable people into management or leadership positions is commonplace, but teams can suffer if they don’t know how to lead.  Identify your potential leaders, and develop them in line with your business and leadership strategies.  Use your existing processes to do this.

5 Design and utilise robust processes and procedures

Amongst these are performance management systems, which should mean as much to managers and leaders as to everyone else. The behaviours, roles, responsibilities and functions of leadership need to be clear, and in evidence. We need role-models in leadership roles.

6 Encourage courage

Widespread reliance on email and smart phones results in people being copied on everything, and a lack of courage to take decisions without letting everyone know we are about to do so. Decisions should be made as far down the organisation as possible, and leaders should help this happen by delegating and setting challenging objectives and targets.

7 Avoid task focus

Sure enough, we need to get the job done, but that cannot be achieved without people. Focus on motivation, morale, capability, recognition and appropriate rewards, and engage with people.

8 Look to the future

A leadership strategy should have a long enough horizon to have an impact. Changing tack too often can diminish leadership development activity to "this year’s thing". Choose wisely, and your approach can percolate throughout the organisation, and become part of the culture of success.

Of course this is easy to say, but it requires effort, tenacity and resilience to reap the benefits from investment in leadership development.

Steve Read has over 13 years’ experience as a leadership and management development consultant, coach and trainer. In 2000 he founded The Helix Consultancy which runs leadership programmes for a wide variety of clients and subsequently in 2009 he established Adair International in partnership with Professor John Adair – one of the world’s leading authorities on leadership. Adair International runs its Action Centred Leadership programmes around the world through a network of accredited trainers and associates.

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