Article: Building lasting leadership models


Building lasting leadership models

Leadership is a lot about emotional courage and the only way to teach courage is to demand it of people
Building lasting leadership models

It is important that identifying high potential leaders for future becomes a part of the DNA of an organization, followed by assessing their strengths and development needs, and then a plan that hones them into leadersLeadership development cannot be detached from business strategy. It must be a balance of body, heart and soul, of skills & knowledge, of execution and behavior


Leadership development cannot be detached from business strategy. It must be a balance of body, heart and soul, of skills & knowledge, of execution and behavior


“Survival of the fittest is not the same as survival of the best. Leaving leadership development up to chance is foolish” 
- Morgan McCall

We are living in an increasingly interdependent world. Rapid shifts in technology, geopolitics, environment, economy and business models have created complexities that the world has not seen before. This era is hyper dynamic and threatens to overwhelm companies with its velocity of change. Are we prepared to meet these challenges and take our companies through the next phase of growth? What is the one factor that will work across sectors and make companies robust enough to face the new world and carve out the road to success? We need more leaders, better leaders and we need them fast. We need leaders who add genuine value to people and organizations; we need leaders whose integrity is unquestionable; we need leaders who can inspire and motivate and we need leaders who have the capability to create a legacy.

The words of John Maxwell resonate with me - “The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.” It is true that one of the most critical factors of a company’s future is the depth and quality of its leadership. Companies that invest in leadership development find themselves future-proofed and better prepared to deal with uncertainties and a changing world. It is critical to realize that the ethos of leadership development lies in creating a culture of performance. Great leaders attract, hire and inspire great people. A mediocre manager will never attract or retain high-performing employees. A focus on leadership development attracts high-performers and promotes a high performance driven culture. Organizations that are ‘built to last’ are those that take leadership development seriously.

Is your organization focused on developing leaders who will be needed for long-term success? Is talent management, retention and successful leadership transition a part of your business plans? Are you building a leadership pipeline that is broad based and cuts across various levels in the organization? Succession planning usually focuses on the CEO or those who are a few levels below the CEO. In its true essence, the only way to build a leadership pipeline is to focus on each level within the organization. The objective should be to produce a continuous supply of leaders. It is important that identifying high potential leaders for future becomes a part of the DNA of an organization, followed by assessing their strengths and development needs, and then a plan that hones them into leaders.

It’s not just about achieving business results; it’s about nurturing people. In fact, business results cannot be obtained without energizing and challenging people who make it happen. Companies need leaders who truly care about people. It is time that leaders realized that the scope of succession planning must broaden, that building talent pipeline ought to extend beyond top management. It must include everyone who makes a meaningful contribution to the company’s plans. The talent pool within the company must match the pace of growth. Every leader at every level must work to create more leaders and not followers. People who are secure in themselves will have the courage to do this. Jack Welch articulates this well, “I was never the smartest guy in the room. From the first person I hired, I was never the smartest guy in the room. And that’s a big deal. And if you’re going to be a leader – if you’re a leader and you’re the smartest guy in the world – in the room, you’ve got real problems.” - Jack Welch

While the process starts with the scouting and identification of leaders at each level in the organization, leadership development has to go beyond conventional skills training. You have to also look at attitude and behavioral aspects. The first and foremost focus must be on values and ethics. No amount of skill or knowledge can compensate for the lack of values. It doesn’t matter what your title is, if you don’t do the right things for the right reasons, you will fail. If an organization fails to assess the values test in potential leaders, it is letting itself up for future disaster. Ultimately, an organization lives and dies by its leadership; it must, therefore, aim for a value-based leadership development program. The former PepsiCo Chairman Wayne Calloway has rightly said, “I'll bet most of the companies that are in life-or-death battles got into that kind of trouble because they didn't pay enough attention to developing their leaders.”

Leadership development cannot be detached from business strategy. It must be able to uncover skill gaps that can disrupt the growth of the most promising leaders. Getting the right skills in the right place must be the fundamental goal. The education and development process must be embedded in the business and married to key strategic initiatives of the company. Training must be continuous and on the job. It cannot be event driven. It must offer practical, real world connections. The connection to reality must never be lost. The development programs must offer different modules that aim and target different aspects. Cramming too many things together will result in a loss of focus. Effective leadership development programs will be a balance between formal learning approaches, learning on the job, learning by doing and learning from others. There must be an opportunity for application of knowledge on the job. There must be real life exposure to a variety of jobs, situations and bosses.

Leadership is a lot about emotional courage – and that is difficult to teach theoretically. The only way to teach courage is to demand it of people. A leadership development plan must put people into real life situations where their ability to take courageous decisions is tested, where they have the opportunity to demonstrate that they can remain steadfast in uncertainty, remain pleasant and unfazed in the face of opposition and demonstrate that they have the courage and the conviction to stand by their values. These traits cannot be learnt by attending a lecture or by reading a book. That is why leadership development must be integrated into work. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Learning is experience, everything else is just information.

The power of motivation and inspiration must not be forgotten. A good leadership development program must theforefore make space for coaching and mentoring. Real life leaders are greatly positioned to train and motivate people to higher levels of performance. Existing leaders have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they can share with potential leaders. If existing leadership can be the icons that people within the organization look up to, great aspirational energies are created. A mentor or coach can provide leadership training in its most holistic aspect. A mentor who believes in an individual can inspire the individual to greatness. A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else believed in them and guided them.

To be a leader means to be an influencer; it means that you have the power to shape the lives of others and have a significant impact on the organization. Any leadership program, therefore, must emphasize how a leader should think and act. He must realize what it means to be in a leadership role. He must be trained to understand power, dealing with politics in the organization, how to influence people, how to build trust and create alliances that will increase his ability to get positive results. Leadership development must be a balance of body, heart and soul; of skills & knowledge, and of execution and behavior.

Despite the tough economic conditions, opportunities abound. Companies will do themselves and the world a great favour by creating a pipeline of leaders who are prepared to face the new world. Organizations need to have strong processes in place before promotions take place for senior leadership positions. This group of people needs to be aligned to the vision. It’s important that promotions are based on merit and not on emotions. If we have to create leaders of the future, the young must be guided, their skills honed, their attitudes set in the right direction, their bodies prepared for the grind of hard work, their minds strengthened with emotional courage and their hearts grounded. In the words of Noel Tichy, “Winning companies win because they have good leaders who nurture the development of other leaders at all levels of the organization”.

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Topics: Leadership, Learning & Development, #HRInsights

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