Leadership development for our time

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Nick Mackeson-Smith
Nick Mackeson-Smith
Chief Curiosity Officer, Founder and Director
May 16, 2023

Great leaders

Great leaders are everything, and can be the difference between a performing organisation, and a high performance organisation. They can inspire people to be at their best, even when the outlook is challenging. They can create magical relationships which are based on deep trust and respect, and unlock significant amounts of discretionary effort in the workforce. They can be a force for positive cultural change, and can turn around long-standing issues in double-quick time.  In short, they are awesome, and every organisation should do whatever they can to attract/develop/retain them.

These people aren’t unicorns. They aren’t a myth. They are real, and there is probably a person who has the potential to be a great leader sitting not too far from where you are now (or you yourself are that person).

What baffles me is that organisations continue to do one of three things when developing their leaders:

1. They put them on a leadership development course and expect them to be a “good leader” when they are done. (nice try! There are some wonderful programmes out there, but the results are highly variable and there isn’t really such a thing as a silver bullet)

2. They put them in a leadership role for a bit, and then put them on a leadership development course blah blah…. (this is like putting someone in charge of driving a school bus full of kids before they have their driving licence - don’t do this!)

3. They do nothing, and hope that people will figure it out. (this is sink or swim, and heaps of people who have the potential to learn how to swim actually sink here)

There is another way

Doing it together

Instead of doing leadership development on or to your people, it’s time to do leadership development with your people. You can do this by being deliberately brilliant in a number of areas:

- Bring developing leaders up to the decision making table as part of the process of developing their capability. Hear from their perspective about what great ideas they already have, how they’d look to make a change, where they think things aren’t wonderful, and what their own experience has taught them. Let them have a voice early, and learn how to use it in the right context.

- Have a shared kōrero with other developing leaders and established leaders about what they’ve tried before, what worked, what didn’t, and what experiences they can share builds a cohort of leaders

- stronger together, with a greater degree of understanding between them, and deep trust forged through vulnerability and shared problem solving.

- Create space for leaders to set their own agenda in development conversations

- what’s important to them? What are they looking to learn? What are the skills they feel they need to be successful in their roles? What specific business challenges can we collectively solve?

- Partner each new leader with a personal sponsor within the existing leadership team who is accountable (and measured) for supporting a new leader’s development. This creates greater levels of personal responsibility in caring for those coming through

- an investment in time, and energy, and love, and increases the likelihood of leadership success. You may also get a little bit of “woke fairy dust” rubbing off on some of the more experienced leaders to expand their perspective on a few things!

- Allocate an external coach to provide an alternative perspective and a change of lens to help new leaders with their decision making or relationships as they navigate their new responsibilities.

All of this builds leaders with greater internal networks, greater levels of self-sufficiency and belief in their ability to learn and grow, deeper relationships, better problem-solving ability, higher levels of personal accountability, and a genuine sense of desire to do good by the organisation that’s supported their growth.Make the change in the way you develop your leaders now.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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May 16, 2023
May 16, 2023

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