Yes, But How? (A Leaders Made Here Post)

We welcome Mark Miller for the second post in a five-part series defining the core principles of Leaders Made Here.

Yes, But How? Step #2 -- Teach It

In my previous post, I began the story of how the Leaders Made Here strategy was born. As with any significant strategic initiative, a clear destination or outcome is critical. In many organizations who want and need more leaders, the actual working definition of leadership is conspicuous in its absence – there is no clarity on what success looks like. That’s why Step #1 in the process is to Define It. But that’s not all . . .

Shortly after Ken Blanchard and I published The Secret, I began to receive calls to speak. This is understandable – the book was well received and today has been translated to more than 25 languages. However, the nature of the calls contained an insight.

Organizations did not want me to attend their conference or talk to their leadership teams about our definition of leadership – they had the book for that. What they repeatedly asked for was, “What’s next?”

Initially, I was taken aback by the question. Wasn’t the definition enough? Obviously not! The common refrain was, “What do we DO with our definition of leadership?” The question many leaders are confronted with is “Yes, I want to be the type of leader you describe, but how do I become that leader?”

That’s why step #2 is to Teach It.

Your organization must systematically teach your current and emerging leaders what you believe about leadership and how to fulfill your organization’s leadership expectations (your working definition).

What does this look like? It depends. Don’t be frustrated by this ambiguous response. It really does depend. It depends on many factors – here are few of them:

  • The size of your organization
  • The maturity of your leaders
  • The demands placed on them (scope and scale of their responsibilities)
  • Your personality as an organization
  • Your goals
  • Your budget
  • Your sense of urgency
  • The number of high-performing leaders already in place

This is a partial list! However, in spite of the diverse factors at play, the answers you have at your disposal regarding how to teach your leadership point-of-view can probably be achieved with your own version and adaptation of the following strategies.

Formal training – A simple scope and sequence can be created to ensure EVERY leader in your organization speaks the same leadership language. If you have a point-of-view on planning, teach all your leaders. If you have a point-of-view on effective teams, teach all your leaders. This doesn’t have to be elaborate, lengthy, or costly – it does need to be consistent.

Mentoring – This is a cornerstone for many organizations. The reason is simple: things can be accomplished in the context of a relationship that will not happen in a classroom. So, why not skip formal training and do everything in mentoring relationships? Efficiency and effectiveness. If you want 50, 100, or 1000 leaders to learn your organization’s “5 Keys to Effective Brainstorming,” you don’t want to have 1000 different mentors trying to teach this. Let the formal training do what it is best suited to do, and let the mentoring relationships deal with more personal issues and applications.

Self-guided Development – This is a powerful and often overlooked tool in every organization’s leadership development tool box. I believe EVERY leader should have an individual development plan that is updated regularly (at least annually) and discussed often with her or his supervisor. I am also a fan of this plan being co-created WITH a supervisor. The best leaders are learners – period. This needs to happen just like breathing. To inculcate this behavior, a written plan with specific outcomes and activities can be extremely helpful.

Skills are a prerequisite to turn aspiration into accomplishment. If you have a definition of leadership, be sure your people have the skills to bring it to fruition in their daily lives.

But, if you’ve been down this path before, you already know what we quickly learned – there is more to creating leadership culture than a common definition and skills. My next post will address our next insight…

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