Article: Leadership is a process, not a person


Leadership is a process, not a person

Leadership development is about empowering everyone to be a leader in their own domains
Leadership is a process, not a person

If leadership has to be addressed in the most appropriate way, it has to begin from the hiring stage


Leadership, as a concept, runs deep in the veins of most organizations, but they don’t address leadership capability development the way they should. Most confuse management capabilities with leadership. Warren Bennis, the Father of Leadership Studies once rightly quoted, ‘Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led’. While most organizations look at leadership development and succession planning as a necessity, it is surprising that many end up filling role pipelines rather than building a leadership pipeline in its true sense. The gap exists because organizations miss out on ensuring that leadership—which is about people development—is a part of all organizational practices right from planning, hiring, promoting, role modelling and even managing talent exits. Also, when leadership is viewed as a one-person capability or only of a few at the senior most levels, it undermines the leadership capabilities of the organization on a whole.

Hire leaders for tomorrow, not role-fillers for this quarter’s results

If leadership has to be addressed in the most appropriate way, it has to begin right from the hiring stage. Organizations often hire for skills or knowledge and do not give enough importance to attitude, which ironically is the most important criteria for finding strong future leaders. While operational excellence is a must, leadership capability cannot be taken for granted. In order to start early on finding and developing leaders, recruitment processes need to move beyond the usual and leverage psychometric and simulation based assessments to identify the right attitude fit. Furthermore, what most organizations lack in recruitment is having a career map for the respective roles, which ensures that the candidate views the opportunity from a long term perspective, rather than the mindset of “getting a job”.

When it comes to promoting talent internally, organizations rely on 360 degree assessments. A lot has been proven about such assessments delivering results, but the ground reality is that none of it would deliver fair outcomes unless executed in an unbiased and ethical way. 360 degree assessments come handy in finding talent for existing or future roles and a strong service partner can enable its execution with extreme confidentiality, professionalism and accuracy.

Promoting people for their age or years of experience has been a prevailing trend, especially in the Indian context. However, merit should be placed above all criterions while looking at talent potential. It’s also about identifying people who can perform a notch above what they are expected to deliver. On one hand, promoting internally is very crucial to sustaining organizational values and on the other hand, organizations also need to bring in fresh talent. Successful organizations ideally maintain a balance of 80-20 per cent share of internal promotions and lateral recruits respectively.

Revive the lost leaders

Although it takes a lot of humility to do so, if organizations could look back at the good performing talent who have left the organization, finding leaders could become a lot easier. The exit interviews are usually treated as a formality rather than as a data bank or retention tool for retaining top talent. Well performing people leave as a result of certain shortcomings of the organization in realizing their true potential and engaging such people could give insights to organizations on improving their leadership development approach.

Create a culture of leadership

Like trust begets trust, the senior leadership in an organization needs to be committed to building a culture of leadership. They need to walk the talk, be dedicated mentors or coaches and empower people to believe in their leadership capabilities. A true leader is not one who can generate numerous followers, but one who knows how to create more leaders.

Leadership, in its true form, is solely about creating an environment where each one is seen as a leader and is empowered to take his/her own critical decisions and be held responsible for the same. Though hierarchies, processes and channels organize and standardize how people work, they also limit people and their leadership capabilities. This consequently impacts how even the best talent performs. In the absence of such a culture of leadership, organizations not just risk losing talent, they also risk losing customers and business. The only effective way to building leadership capabilities is to envision it right from the beginning.

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Topics: Leadership, #BestPractices

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