There are many critical elements to leadership development, many of which are not captured by competency models. When organizations measure and develop leaders, they would do well to create frameworks in which some of these broader aspects are assessed.
Leaders need to create a frame in which to lead. By this I mean a frame of strategy, values and vision. I have come across many people who call themselves leaders but who seem to be more like day lilies. They get to work and operate as they always do, and then close down again at the end of the day. There is little continuity or inspiration that transcends each day’s activities, and nothing that has a greater purpose or projected intent. I recall asking one leader, “what would you like this place to look and feel like in a year’s time – without using numbers.” I knew that their go-to metric would be an increase in numbers (financial, clients, etc.) I encouraged them to talk about culture, strategic vision, behaviors, commitment and other qualitative measures. I think he managed two or three of these measures before he couldn’t resist falling back on the numbers. So often numbers are the result of the frame created to generate them. Leaders with a vision and passion to create a positive environment, advocate excellence, visibly inspire, and harness strategic purpose, have a far greater impact then those who just focus on the numbers.
It is of course a truism that you can’t be a leader if you have no followers. And I don’t just mean the number of Twitter or LinkedIn followers! Some leaders can get so wrapped up in their worlds that they forget to test the temperature of their followers. To start with, why do people follow? Some because they are inspired and motivated to contribute to the leader’s vision, others offer a sort of subservient acquiescence because they know that followership is the right thing to do, others don’t even think about it and just do their job, others might even be renegades who can’t wait to move on, and still others might actively engage in challenging the leader. A good leader needs to know what sort of followers they have – this should shape their leadership. Sensitivity and flexibility as well as fortitude and determination are appropriate leadership qualities.
The future will be different to the past and present. That may sound obvious, but I do know leaders who operate as if time has stood still. The program and the way they lead is the same today as it was a year ago. And they wonder why their organization is much the same. Just refreshing initiatives and encouraging people to buy into the same framework that hasn’t seen much evolution soon gets boring. Leaders need to be people who have one foot in the future and one foot in the present whilst learning from the past. They need to have momentum into a projected vision that inspires others. If leaders can’t paint a picture of the future and build a pathway to it, then their followers will not stick around nor will they survive the test of leadership.
Developing leaders is not as simple as creating a curriculum of courses. Coaching to discover motivations and open up conversations / insight into aspects such as those above, is an effective way to develop those who have such an impact on so many others.