It is human nature for people to fallback on training and knowledge, especially during times of chaos and uncertainty. It is a common response from our military personnel when asked about how they were able to react and take action during combat. They often have said that in the midst of all that chaos, their training kicked in, and they were able to operate with confidence in their abilities.
Not only are their abilities to perform their jobs developed through training, but their abilities to lead are developed as well. When communication is down, the enemy is attacking, and their leader is wounded or dead, our men and women of the military are equipped to carry on with executing the mission because they are all leaders, not just individual performers.
Too many businesses promote their top individual performers to leadership roles for their ability to produce. They neglect to evaluate their ability to lead, and even worse, neglect to develop that person as a leader in the first place. When that top producer is promoted to a leadership role without being developed as a leader, they are set up for failure. As soon as that person encounters a leadership challenge or obstacle, they resort back to what they know, what they are good at, and what got them promoted. They turn to micromanaging those they are trying to lead. They begin to lose trust and confidence of their people, and are soon rendered ineffective as leaders.
Now, I am a firm believer in taking responsibility for your own actions. So, I will say this first: If you are looking at a promotion, or are working hard for one, take responsibility for your own leadership development. Don't wait for your company to train you. Take courses, read books, find a coach, or a mentor. People will not take care of you, if you are incapable of taking care of yourself. You can control how effective of a leader you are through taking initiative and engaging in intentional growth.
What I will say secondly: If you are an organization, you as well can take responsibility for setting your company up for sustained growth and populating your culture with people capable of handling chaos and uncertainty. Engage in leadership development programs, courses, as well as internal coaches and mentors for continuous improvement. Most importantly, the top organizational leaders must also be willing to take part in these programs, themselves, if they are to be a model for people to follow. ("Do as I say, not as I do" is poor leadership)
Developing leaders enables your people to fallback on sound leadership principles when faced with leadership challenges. Leadership Development is pro-active risk mitigation. When you populate your organizational culture with leaders, you have thinkers, problem solvers, innovators, and visionaries who can help you through a crisis, and most importantly, contribute to explosive, sustainable growth.
The difference between great organizations and mediocre organizations is found in the quality of their leaders.
Developing leaders is critical to the growth of any organization. John Maxwell states that developing followers adds growth, and developing leaders multiplies growth. Many organizations today are investing in outside resources to come into their companies and train their people in leadership, but far too many organizations do not go far enough to make that training as effective as it can be.
The population being trained in most organizations is mostly middle management or leaders; those people who are normally top performers, newly promoted, and determined to have great potential. Again, investing in growing and developing your people is a worthy investment, and those people are learning all the right ways to become stronger, more effective leaders, but when they leave training and look to the leaders they report to, they find that the principles they just learned are missing in their leaders.
Too Many Top Level Leaders Believe They Are An Exception
Where organizations are missing the boat in regards to developing their leaders, is that the top level leaders (those sitting in the higher leadership roles and positions) are not practicing the leadership principles they are asking their people to learn and develop. Too many leaders of companies and organizations believe that their position, by default, validates that they know everything there is to know about leadership.
The principles the middle leaders of the organization have just learned and are living by, are not the same principles the executives are operating or living by. This is not good for morale, nor is it good for achieving strategic objectives. Instead of closing the gap between top level leaders and middle level leaders, there is an increased risk of widening that gap, and missing out on growth opportunities.
Side Note: In today's business world, position, responsibilities, size of operating budget, and number of people reporting to someone are the FALSE measurements of leadership. (I write FALSE, because that is what it is. You can have all those things, but if you cannot inspire people, influence people, or add value to people, you are not leading, you are, at best, managing.)
Set The Example
When any organization engages in developing leaders, there must be an alignment from the top down in regards to the principles being taught and practiced. In other words, top level leaders need to take part in the curriculum being taught, and also demonstrate, through their decisions and actions, that they practice the principles being taught. If you like the curriculum enough to buy it, you should like it enough to par take in what it is offering, and demonstrate the value you see in it. It is also a huge opportunity to connect with your people, build morale, and establish a common organizational language around leadership. Most importantly, you are leading by example, not by exception.
If you are going to hire a third party to train your people in leadership, make sure you are willing to learn the principles they will teach your people. Make sure the entire organization is aligned with those principles. Sound leadership principles do not change as you climb in ranks. They are transparent for all levels of leadership. If you want to grow your company or organization, make sure there is alignment in this department. Because alignment in regards to leadership principles, enables alignment in achieving strategic growth objectives.
Do this and buckle up, because your growth will be about to explode.
Imagine for a moment that you and a group of people are each handed a sheet of paper with dots on it. The person handing you that paper asks you to connect those dots, and that is it. No other instructions are given. You are all left staring at a sheet of paper with a bunch of dots on it.
What do you do?
You try to improvise and come up with a picture of something and connect the dots the best you can. Everyone else does the same thing and comes up with their own solution to connecting the dots.
Now, imagine the same setting, but this time the person handing the sheet of paper with dots on it, clearly communicates that the dots are to look like a dog. some people even have the dots numbered.
Though this example appears overly simplistic, and even childish, it is dead on in regards to how so many organizations operate without a PURPOSE.
Ask your leaders in your organization what the PURPOSE of the organization is. Far too many organizations, when asked that very question, end up with as many different answers as people at the table. When you have that, you have the first scenario listed above. Your people have no clear picture of what to do, especially when they are facing a problem without guidance or a process.
Now, an organization that has a clear PURPOSE that is clearly communicated has people who can operate without guidance and even without processes, at times, because they know what their purpose is, and what the objective is.
In the Marines, we called this "Commander's Intent." We always knew what the overall objective was, so when communications were down, or if leaders were killed or wounded, the Marines had the capacity to continue fighting, and most importantly, in accordance to accomplishing the high objective or PURPOSE.
Organizations with a clear PURPOSE are more profitable and experience more sustainable growth than those who don't.
What could your organization accomplish if everyone knew what its PURPOSE was? What kind of confidence and initiative do you think people would operate with, when knowing that no matter how uncertain any given situation may be, they can always direct their efforts towards a common organizational objective? How difficult would it be to collaborate with your leaders to establish a common PURPOSE?
Knowing WHY you do something is more important than WHAT you do!
That is a major element to establishing a "Leadership Culture!"
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