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Leadership development – why do organisations bother?

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I'm giving a lot of attention just now to the future shape of my company's leadership & management development programme for Europe - I'll be implementing something in the next few months.

Sure, I appreciate the need to link development activities, support activities, etc, to organisational & business needs as well as individual needs. This will take care of many interventions that will be useful for non-leaders as well as leaders. For example, improving communication skills, giving directions, creating a vision of the future etc etc etc (and blah blah blah!)

But, for me, these interventions have a need that stands alone from developing leadership capabilities. We'll do the vast majority of these kinds of interventions anyway.

I'm familiar with a bunch of models and frameworks, such as Kouzes & Posner's Leadership Challenge, or the work of Tosti & Jackson. I've used many myself, and they've been great at helping to deliver a variety of useful behaviours.

Yet I find myself, over the years, coming back to a persistent feeling, that something is not quite right, that something is missing. This has led me to find all manner of complex and sophisticated models. All these have done is confuse people (including me) and just bring me eventually back to the same feeling that something is missing.

So I want to tackle this head on by asking: leadership - why bother?

I have some nascent thoughts, but they're not fully formed or coherent yet.

I'm curious to know what others think.

So, 'fill your boots'!

Cheers

Martin

10 Responses

  1. Leadership is linked to need to have good teams

    A managing director once asked me what was the point of team-buidling. I said that apart from a significant increase in the motivation of people to help those they work with, especially if they needed help, and to become more open with their colleagues and more likely to share succeses there was absolutely no value whatsoever!

    So what is the point of leadership training; other than the ability to create effective teams who want to work for each other producing far more than the sum of their parts and being motivated to contribute to a commmon goal that they feel is theirs leadership training alos has absolutely no value.

     

    Cheers.

     

    Nick

  2. Do we need definitions…?

      A managing director once asked me what was the point of team-buidling. I said that apart from a significant increase in the motivation of people to help those they work with, especially if they needed help, and to become more open with their colleagues and more likely to share succeses there was absolutely no value whatsoever!

    So what is the point of leadership training; other than the ability to create effective teams who want to work for each other producing far more than the sum of their parts and being motivated to contribute to a commmon goal that they feel is theirs leadership training alos has absolutely no value.

     

    Thanks Nick!

    Reading your reply I find myself wondering if greater motivation for people to help those they work with comes from what is specifically leadership development and not some other development, or whether some other factor is at work… and does more open communication come from leadership or simply encouraging it when it happens and not ‘hammering people’ when they openly share contentious views…

    I guess to answer the question as developed by Nick, do we need to be clear about what we mean by ‘leadership’ and whether it comes in different flavours…? 

  3. Great question!

     Looking forward to watching how this one develops! 

    My own views are that leadership makes a difference – to the leaders, the people they lead, to the organisation’s culture and of course to the ‘bottom line’ – whatever that might be!

    A consistent element of the leadership development programmes I have delivered (at various levels) is that the intervention, whether it be coaching, action learning, traditional training, releases ‘leadership’ in participants – it almost gives them permission to be leaders. It’s very easy to get caught up in doing things they way they’ve always been done, or not ‘rocking the boat’ or feeling powerless to change things. When potential leaders, or lapsed leaders participate on a learning programme they are reminded or encouraged to go back out there and ‘be’ leaders. That usually means taking some action that they wouldn’t otherwise have taken and in my experience those actions, however small, cause a reaction and the leader starts to make a difference.

    The tangible differences I’ve had reported back have included:

    • a change in style leading to more engaged team members
    • a physical knocking down of walls to create an open plan office
    • a drive to get all project managers qualified (and more effective as a result)
    • a move from 4th place on a major bid to winning it
    • several substabtial cost savings through changing processes and procedures

     

    and many more. All down to an individual in a leadership position taking the initiative, often against the odds, and being determined to see the change through.

    I believe that it is our job as developers of leaders to release that drive and energy to see the ideas through. We may do this through sharing models, facilitating exercises, asking challenging questions, creating a chance to share ideas with peers or simply by just listening. My experience tells me that different individuals have their ‘a-ha’ moments at different times and stimulated by different things in a development programme and it can be hard to predict exactly what will trigger it. It’s therefore important to have a mix of learning opportunities available to developing leaders.

    I am convinced in the benefits of developing leadership, I have seen the added value time and time again, however, I question some of the approaches I’ve seen to ‘leadership’ development (is it really management development with a more exciting title?) and get frustrated when organisations ask me to develop leaders then make it difficult for them to behave as leaders afterwards. 

    Hope this helps to keep the discussion going ….

  4. There is a lot of need for correct leadership training

    This seems to have become an interesting discussion.

    Sometimes to see what you need something, such as good leaders, it is wise to examine what happens when it is missing. There are many examples of companies getting bankrupt primarily due to bad leadership, bad communication skills, or bad atmosphere set in the company.  A recent major example was Enron’s collapse which is analysed by many and is a good case study.

    This is when you realise that leadership is not a static set of methodologies that you apply. You need to constantly mold leadership to your circumstances, changing industry, changing market and of course your staff. 

    This is where leadership training comes in. It is there to keep an eye on all the changes. People (staff or leaders) might develop bad habits. There might be new systemic problems. The market demands might have changed which may require a more flexible leadership approach. Increasing pace of technological development may also have a huge impact on the way people want to be leaders or be led.Social changes dictate how people expect to be treated and may no longer accept traidiation rigid hierachies.

    All of this leads to a dynamic need for constant thinking of new ideas for leadership improvement and training. Yes, there is so much point in doing leadership training, so much that can make one really excited.

    Anyway, some thoughts…

    Leaderships Skills Training Materials

    Ehsan Honary

  5. To Achieve Results?

    Surely, there is only one point to Leadership Development? And it’s nothing to do directly with increased motivation, sharing success, changing style, removing walls etc etc etc ~ ad infinitum.

    The only legitimate reason as far as I can see to undertake leadership development is to improve or contribute to the bottom line of the business, everything listed above is secondary. ‘Leadership’ development is often an amalgam or hotch-potch of ideas slung together and fed to the masses. It is loosely based around the fact that much of the content is what has been traditional included on ‘leadership’ events and strongly influenced by the trends of the day, so if your leaders aren’t trained as coaches they must be CRAP!

    Leadership Development of the generic type must be tailored and focused on organisational outputs. I can think of one major public sector organisation who has spent tens of thousands of pounds on leadership Training with no idea about what it’s meant to achieve in terms of outcomes and results.

     http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2004/10/12/26034/critics-question-value-of-leadership-training.html

    Would you buy a car without knowing how many miles to the gallon it did or how many people it could carry, or indeed when it would be delivered? Probably not, and yet organisations buy ‘Leadership’ development without any concept of what it’s going to do for the business other than a few vague ideas.

    The reason organisations should bother with Leadership Development will be completely different for every organisation and ideally all focused on outcomes, like: absenteeism, increased productivity, reduction in waste, lower turnover, minimising costs, reducing accidents and so on. Now the question of where ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ or ‘Transactional Analysis’ (the content of leadership events) contributes to this is core, and sometimes the answer is dubious, to say the least.

  6. A better man than I …

    Brave man opening this one up, Martin ….. I do think that if you went back a couple of thousand years, the same conversations would be taking place … only on papyrus rather than laptop!  And down the decades, this whole area has become a labyrinth of theory and concept …….. Lots of interesting and constructive contributions here, but I also try to remember that human beings will always over-complicate issues if, dare I say it, there’s money to be made!

    Watching with interest, and wondering how long this fuse is going to burn for …..? 

     

    John  

     

    http://www.johnkemptraining.co.uk

     

     

     

  7. Some questions about your question

    Martin

    I feel that to be able to offer any potentially relevant answers your question I want to know more about what lies behind it. 

    The section that intrigues me is "Yet I find myself, over the years, coming back to a persistent feeling, that something is not quite right, that something is missing. This has led me to find all manner of complex and sophisticated models. All these have done is confuse people (including me) and just bring me eventually back to the same feeling that something is missing.

    So I want to tackle this head on by asking: leadership – why bother?"

    So could you please expand a little on that feeling that something is missing?

  8. leadership programmes, hmm..

     Hi Martin,

    We’ve just spent quite a lot of time asking people to openly tell us what makes a great boss and what advice they would give to their own boss. No surprise, I guess, but not one of them mentioned ‘corporate visioning’ or their ‘leaders paradigm of the world’. 

    They actually asked for some dead simple stuff… "If you say you’re going to do something… do it!" and "stop being such a control freak". I’m sure this won’t be a revelation to you, but it really helped us with our approach to this issue. Let’s face it, if we all did some of these really obvious things just 10% better… the impact on our teams would be huge.

    So, no more complex models and intangible theory for our clients, ask people what they want, act on it, create great habits and move on. I understand the "somethings missing" comment you made… perhaps it’s the stuff right under you nose?

    Anyway, do have a look at our video research at http://www.twobaldblokes.com and see if it helps… I think there are four different videos on our homepage to look at…

    tim

    [email protected]

     

     

  9. Leadership Develppment – Why bother
    I have just run a leadership development programme for senior leaders in my organisation. I decided not to go down the formal
    teaching or model route. So the programme I put together was a series of activities that the leaders took part in. It was about
    development, development, development.

    Firstly they completed a psychometric self awareness questionnaire which was followed up with feedback on the report that was
    generated by someone trained in interpreting the results. They then completed 360 feedback online and via interviews to get an
    external view of their leadership style. So having had their self awareness report and feedback from colleagues, peers, direct reports
    customers, organised them into action learning groups where they talked about their development areas and made a statement about
    what they wanted to change and why. The group provided good challenge and coaching support to each member. Great relationships
    were forged in these groups. I watched people walk in negatively to the session and left completely enlightened. They were then
    scheduled to have a PDP coaching session, followed by a session with their line manager to nail their development plan and agree
    support.

    So with this programme I did not take them through anything formal and most of it was about raising self awareness with the leader
    about their style and the impact they have on their team and others around them. The feedback gained was fantastic, way beyond
    what I was expecting. Senior mangers saying that it was the best leadership programme they had ever been on becuase it made them
    change the way they work and behave. It was simple and straightforward a real eye opener for the leaders and has had a massive
    impact on the whole leadership team. We will be sending out Kirkpatrick level 4 feedback questionnaires in a couple of months to
    capture business outcomes that have been achieved as a consequence.

    I hope this helps you with working out what is missing as this is an alternate approach.


    J Jupp

  10. Yes (& thanks) to everyone, and yet…

    Wow, what a diverse set of responses – thank you all!

    I find myself agreeing with practically every sentiment expressed – from altered environments, to focus on the bottom line, and ‘giving people what they want’… yet I still believe there’s something missing, at least for me. With everybody’s responses pulled together there still seems to be a missing piece or 2 from the jig saw.

    I wonder if this is about enabling people to develop a largely shared vision of a compelling future, compelling enough for people to want to head in that direction. I also wonder if this is about aspects of intrinsic motivation, along the lines outlined by Daniel Pink? (See his book, ‘Drive’ and presentation at TED 2009 on motivation).

    I’m just back from a trip to the USA. I had the interesting experience to be in a large room with about 800 employees of a semiconductor company as their CEO gave them the welcome news that the days of sacrifice, of pay cuts, cut pension and bonus payments, were over. The atmosphere was incredibly positive. This company had managed to keep all facilities open and not make anybody redundant. It’s soon likely to have a record, or near-record quarter in terms of productivity, revenue, profits etc. This CEO had provided firm and clear direction and choices during the downturn, had bucked the trends of the industry and the analysts, and found a way to protect the workforce. In return the workforce was delivering record performance levels. This wasn’t about letting go of control freakery, knocking down walls and all of the other good things people have mentioned so far in their responses. It wasn’t even about the bottom line, at least, not *just* about the bottom line. This particular organisation has a particularly strong set of guiding values that cuts across many cultures across the world.

    I’m finding Dr Mark McKergow’s "leader as host" model along with Dan Pink’s work on motivation and the philosophy of Solutions Focus to be (for me) particularly useful and practical ways of looking at leaders, leading and the needs of the organisation.

    As for my original question about why bother, I think the answer is about clear direction, sense of scope and boundaries, desire to explore and innovate, and to collectively move towards a ‘compelling future perfect’ even if it can never be achieved. I think it’s also about experiencing a smoother, faster, more enjoyable, less stressful journey through many challenges, some unforeseeable, attracting people who want to ‘play’, who want to give of their best, not for money but for the heck of it, for the chance to grow at the same time, and contribute to something that’s bigger than themselves. That’s usually not about the bottom line, at least, not only the bottom line. Protecting the bottom line at this semiconductor company I mentioned earlier was a way to ensure valued colleagues did not lose their jobs, and ensured the company was well placed to take advantage when the upturn came. If it was just about the ‘bottom line’ for individuals they would have gone to the competitors who tried to weaken this company by luring away key employees for significant increases in salary. Very very few actually made the switch…

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