The self-development of leadership development
Leadership development has gone by many names over the last century and has evolved in many ways. It has come in the form of apprenticeships, to purposeful rotational assignments, to training, and executive coaches (which are about as generic today as accountants). But through this entire evolution, leadership development has almost always been about the masters teaching the students. This is either following the example of the guy who already “made it” or by internalizing the lessons of the instructor in a class, such as those run by the Center for Creative Leadership or even our own Leading Lean 3-day program (of which, I am still a believer and a fan).
But what has been slow to emerge is the leader who systematically develops themselves. Certainly, some individuals do this naturally. But it is not built into leadership development.
When I am coaching leaders in being more effective as leaders on the lean journey (allow me to keep this distinct from generic “executive coaching”), my focus is on getting the leader to articulate where they are, where they want to be, and what they can do close the gap. I developed a specific A3-format tool to help guide this process. Of course, I help with this process, whether it is feedback to help develop a more distinct and clear understanding of their current state, crafting a clear target, or helping execute the elements of their development plan. But…it is THEIR plan.
I’ll even end up having conversations with people in their organizations: “can you get my leader to do this or do that?” NO! It’s not what your objective is for them, it is the leader’s own objectives. It is self-development.
Why is self-development more important today than directed development? Because the starting point for leaders is more variable than ever before, and the needs of the future less anticipated than ever before. Each leader must have their own development vector, and that vector will change over time.
Roselinde Torres had a nice little TED talk (introduced to me by my mother, actually) about leadership development. The 3 questions she asks I think are intriguing, because they indicate whether the leader is prepared to continue changing their perspectives and themselves. The 3 questions are:
Where are you looking to anticipate change? Simply put, you cannot canvas the universe. Certainly, be well read and well informed, but about what? Where do you need to pay more attention?
What is the diversity measure of your network? Since she is from a large consultancy, I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually developed a tool to measure that, although I hope not. But are you set up to get a lot of opinions that are already like your own, or are you surrounded by inputs from people who have a different perspective? Many years ago I set up a Personal Advisory Board. I left several very smart and trusted people off because they wouldn’t give me anything new. I wanted a diverse set of inputs.
Are you courageous enough to abandon the past? The is more about remaking yourself, your organization, or whatever change is necessary. Who cares what the inputs are if you aren’t willing to act on them? In isolation, I don’t like this question, because I see plenty of “leaders” willing to abandon the past just to be able to say they are changing, for change’s sake. I don’t think this is the kind of “courage” we are looking for.
You can view Torres’ full TED video here.
Reflection question: Do you seek opportunities for others to develop you in their model, or do you own your own definition of a leader and your own path to achieve that vision?
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