This particular question on Leadership Development can be broken down into 3 parts:
Do leaders desire development?
Of course the obvious answer is that those who desire growth, change and development will consciously and unconsciously seek new opportunities, ask for feedback, reflect on themselves, observe others , challenge themselves etc. Development for such leaders – works!!! They seek this.
What about those leaders who do not have a naturally high “learning orientation”? Can leadership development for them work?
Mandated learning rarely incites excitement in participants. What then can be looked at? Lets explore this.
While developing – what should be the greater focus?
Internal change – the way a leader thinks & feels ; his world view and paradigms; the mental models & emotions that drive his externalized behaviours.
Behaviour change which has been made more measurable, more tangible and more visible – thanks to great work that has been done around competency models especially in the last decade.
Working with IBM’s model of Nature and Nurture in the past 8 years has brought about interesting insights:
When something is important and engaging, most leaders learn.
For example: We found that when a leader with strong entrepreneurial orientation had to set up something new and different, he demonstrated quick and intense learning. When faced with the challenge of creating something new and different, his entrepreneurial orientation acted as the motivator to create something unique. Even though he was not our classic leader with high “learning agility”, he learnt with a passion. Almost overnight, he became more mature, knowledgeable and adaptable, open to new ideas and a person who passionately wanted to get results. From this example, perhaps, we can hypothesis, that when leaders are engaged with their intense desires, motivators and aspirations , they will be the ideal learners. Learning has to align therefore, both with the internal nature of the leader as well as the external knowledge and behaviours that are required to be developed.
The other interesting experience was observing senior leadership teams with often a common malaise of not working together – as a cohort; rather being strongly attached to their silos and leaving the job of managing the overall vision of the organization to the CEO.
Is it that in such situations, collaboration as a behaviour should be the focus of leadership development?
In our experience, this may be a very simplistic way of looking at such situations. Most leaders, and rightly so, would admit that had they displayed collaborative behaviour they might not have reached such levels in the organisational hierarchy, and that despite this, the interdepartmental teamwork works flawlessly. Indeed – this is true.
So, what prevents them from coming together as one team and what prevents them for being so disdainful of desiring any change or learning intervention?
In our experience here is where, managing the inner world to demonstrate higher level behaviours becomes a critical way for change to be created. Working at emotional competencies is the key and the starting point. It is amazing to see results when trusted coaches propell leaders to look inwards & enable them to explore their inner world to understand the base from where unhelpful behaviours emanate. When the inner life changes, the speed with which leaders learn and develop higher level competencies is usually commendable.
In short, without the engagement of emotional processes, leadership development is unlikely to happen.
Good news is that neuroscience is scientifically proving that the brain is plastic . It can change – and this inner change has a huge connect to behaviours.
Working on Emotional Intelligence should become a long term leadership development agenda.