Are your leaders adding or destroying value?

Have you ever felt frustration in watching leaders who won’t or can’t seem to ‘step up’ and lead? Have you ever found yourself watching someone making a decision and have you cringed and wondered ‘why are they doing that in that way?’

Have you been one of those leaders?

Imagine how much value could be generated if your organisation had consistently excellent leadership and management at all levels. People who knew how to take charge, who could engage others to follow them with loyalty and who consistently anticipated and thought through critical issues and made value adding decisions. People who knew how to set their people up for success and did the work required to maintain those conditions for success.

Leaders who knew how to create a true culture of accountability!

What would that be worth to you?

Over the past twenty five years or so I have had the privilege of working with and learning from some very capable people – many of whom are linked on this site. From my time as a RAAF Officer in the late 80s, where I was given some pretty solid leadership development opportunities and my first chance to design leadership development systems, I have been exposed to many outstanding leaders and have played a role in working to develop leadership capability in many industries and in many parts of the world.

When you invest in leadership development, do you attempt to define and measure the return on investment or do you just hope that it adds value?

 During that time I reckon that the most common frustration of senior managers is when they feel that they have invested in developing leaders only to find that ‘they won’t step up and lead’. I have a few thoughts about why that might be so and I’m going to share them here. I hope that you’ll enjoy the read and might even be prepared to contribute to testing my thinking so that together we can learn from the process.

What goes wrong?

The answer to that question is, of course, somewhat complex but there are several general errors that are made, none of which are surprising really.  They include:

  • Poor selection for leadership roles – do they have the aptitude and desire to lead?
  • Lack of clarity of expectations for leadership role holders – what does leadership mean?             How do they add value?
  • Lack of coaching support for developing leaders and for experienced leaders for that                 matter
  • Leadership programs that fail to adequately address beliefs as drivers of behaviour – do we understand the nature of behaviour change and the challenges of stepping up to lead?
  • Missing the opportunity to embed measurable workplace improvement ‘projects’ in your leadership programs
  • Failure to attend to detail in program follow-up. We don’t take actions back into the workplace
  • Organisational systems and structures that inhibit or in some cases punish leaders who step up
  • Recognition systems that reward leadership and people work (not just technical work), a structure that ensures opportunity and mentoring.

In order to test that list ask yourself “if we had rigorous selection processes, real clarity of expectations, belief-focused leadership programs, strong coaching following the programs and supportive structures and systems – how different might our leaders be?”

What else would it take?

Given that there’s probably no news in the paragraphs above (most of you recognise these elements -  right?) then what’s missing?

Possibly it’s the mindful intention to apply the discipline required to think through the requirements and then to commit to a thorough approach. Many organisations tend to use hope as a methodology when dealing with such complex situations – we have a bit of a go at it and then hope for the best with lines like “If they’re any good they will work it out” or “I didn’t get told how to do it, why should anyone else? “

Here are some questions for you to ponder:

·         Has your organisation developed a crystal clear set of expectations of managerial leaders? Have you really thought about what you want them to do and how?

·         Is that set of expectations effectively and consistently used to drive recruitment and selection for leadership roles?

·         Do you run effective, transformational, leadership development programs for managers? Are they designed based on a sound, tailored leadership framework and do they deliver measurable projects and sustainable behaviour change?

·         Do you actively and consistently coach leaders in their roles?

·         Are your good leaders effectively recognised and rewarded? Are your ineffective leaders coached or removed from their roles?

·         Do your managerial leaders have authorities that match their accountabilities? Is decision making encouraged at the right level?

You will, in my experience, be in very rare company if you answer each question in the affirmative.