The nucleus of great leaders
I am yet to meet a business or community leader who doesn’t espouse the word ‘culture’ or ‘leadership’ with abandon. I am yet to meet a group of leaders who have the same clear and strong opinion about what those two little words mean. And, I am yet to meet a leader who gets it all right, all of the time (including myself!).
Leadership is something we feel just as much as we see. It is that sense of ‘I want to follow that person, I want to listen to what they say’ that is often a desire we have that is not always easily quantifiable. Yes, we can go on leadership ‘programs’ (and I am an advocate of learning), but, this is not where leadership skills are developed. Leadership programs give us knowledge, real life allows us, consciously or unconsciously, to be, or to become the leader that we aspire to be.
To be a great leader, and to grow great leaders, we need to create a culture that actively encourages robust, respectful conversations – those feedback moments that allow us to hear how our leadership shadow is cast, what shape it is and the impact that it has on others. We need to create an environment where people feel safe to say what is important to them. We need to give them latitude and space to grow, and we need to get out of their way. Feedback is simply an opportunity to hear a perspective; an experience; it allows us to consider it and take on what fits with our ideal; When feedback flows, you are creating the foundations of great leaders.
It is my belief that it is a common trait of effective leaders, that they are coachable. They are willing to be vulnerable and regardless of how hard it is to do, that they are committed to raising the bar on their emotional intelligence (EI) (for more information on this I encourage you to read Patrick Leoncini’s 5 Temptations of a CEO). You can learn a framework on EI by attending a program or reading a book, however, to develop your EI requires a culture that values and rewards the behaviours associated with high EI (self-control, personal responsibility, awareness of others etc) If you are already a leader, you are already given the opportunity to, set the tone of what you want your organisational culture to be. Whether you are an active contributor to your organisation’s culture, or a by-stander, you are impacting on what is achieved. With today’s business challenges, no one can afford to not get culture right. There is extensive and immerging research that now links healthy cultures, to employee engagement and to commercial results.
Too often there is a complete disconnect between what is learnt on a program and an organisational environment facilitating that which is learnt. I would advocate strongly against borrowing money to invest in complex, theoretical ‘culture’ programs or stretching your budget to roll out leadership programs; without first looking at whether or not your culture will enable what is learnt on a program to flourish.
What I do strongly recommend is that you start with you. As a leader in your organization or your community, you check what your leadership shadow looks like. You ask yourself: how do I want others to describe me as leader? Then ask: how would they describe me as a leader now? Work on the gap – read, attend programs, get a mentor or a coach, see what resources your HR provider or team have to support your leadership growth.
Then, look closely at your organisation and how you want your organizations culture to be recognised and articulated. To be open to feedback and great advice you enable your vision to become your reality.