This may seem like an easy question, but in actuality, it isn’t. Leadership can be defined in several different ways because the word means different things to different people.
When I define leadership, qualities like integrity, consistency, inspirational, objective nature, and very importantly, self-aware come to mind. Some believe people are born with these qualities, which they develop over time, but I challenge that belief. These qualities are not innate but are learned and generally from the time we are young children and onward throughout our adult life.
In the workplace, great leaders know how to develop others without fear of being replaced by the people they train and mentor. They, also, know when they need to stand aside and let others lead when the situation calls for it and do not fear showing vulnerability in not knowing everything. By the way, claiming to know everything is exhausting and frankly, a huge responsibility to place on one’s self. Great leaders know this, so they instead surround themselves with talented people and rely on these individuals to bring their talents and skills to light as a team, department, and company working together to capitalize on everyone’s strengths. Further, leaders can be found at all levels within an organization and not only in the top leadership roles.
Most companies suck at developing leaders
All too often, companies find themselves scrambling around when the announcement of a pivotal position is about to become vacant. (Note: pivotal positions can fall anywhere on a company’s hierarchy chart, not just positions at the management level.) This lack of planning is reactive, not proactive, and an indication of a poorly designed hierarchical structure. When companies don’t have a succession plan or a Plan B in place which stems from a well-developed leadership training program, they are opening themselves up to a potential disaster. What can occur is either a lengthy period of time will be needed to find a successor, leaving the position vacant too long, or worse, the successor will be hired too quickly and incorrectly.
There are numerous reasons why organizations don’t have leadership training programs. Unfortunately, some companies elect to not include this in the culture and vision of the company. Other reasons like limited resources, lack of budget, not understanding how to manage a program of this importance, how to start one, and/or the company is run in a static versus nimble manner are just a few of the more common rationales.
On the flip side, some companies that do offer leadership development often make the mistake of keeping this initiative a closed community only accessible to a select few who have been tapped on the shoulder. This action creates a homogenous environment versus a diverse and inclusive one as only “those who look like us” are chosen to advance.
Make leadership development the norm
Most companies spend a lot of time evaluating data and metrics without knowing what result is needed and often don’t understand the outcomes and what to do with the data. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate measuring everything all the time and consider diverting our attention from a reporting mentality to a people development mentality. This approach takes us from being strictly numbers driven to being more people-centric and opens the door to create a more diverse and inclusive culture because an organization’s greatest asset, its employees, is taking center stage. Also, spending more time on building people relationships versus building working relationships can help strengthen bonds and camaraderie between people, potentially allowing ideas to flow better and collaboration to be easy and natural.
At the end of the day, business runs on two things: people and processes, and without them in synergistic coexistence, desired results cannot happen.