Leadership Development is the process of developing the skills and capabilities of those who lead others. In today’s complex world, Leadership Development is a constant process of adapting to the realities of rapid change from many directions. Cultural and generational diversity require extraordinary sensitivity, in addition to the normal challenges of an ever-changing business climate. No matter how natural it might seem, addressing these challenges in a way that encourages others to move toward a common goal requires training and mentorship.
What skills are needed today for Leadership Development?
Communication and Motivation are two of the most essential skills required in today’s complex organizational world. But other skills are also critical, including self-awareness, delegation, and emotional intelligence.
Communication is not about how well you speak. You don’t need to be a skilled public speaker to lead well. But leaders need to understand how the words they use impact others and they need to know how their behaviors can potentially betray the words they use. Being able to communicate involves an ability to see yourself through the eyes of others. Leaders who can recognize their strengths and weaknesses develop the ability to minimize negative issues and to build up their strengths to produce the results they seek.
Most people operate on autopilot most of the time. They have habits and characteristics they apply without conscious thought. One of the greatest skills that Leadership Development assists with is learning to be fully aware of each person they are leading.
The primary purpose of Leadership Development is to build an awareness of how to create an organizational climate that encourages people to want to do and be their very best.
When leaders fail in these areas of awareness, they end up projecting themselves onto those they lead, rather than finding ways to motivate and encourage the individual strengths and capabilities of each member of their team.
Leadership Development trains leaders to delegate more effectively. Just because a leader can do something doesn’t mean they can lead others to do it. In fact, it is often challenging for someone skilled at a task to relinquish control and let others possibly fail as they learn to do it.
Emotional Intelligence enables a leader to remain calm under pressure. It involves an ability to sense how others might respond allowing the leader to resolve conflicts through empathy and understanding. It can be highly effective when regularly honed and will help ensure success managing oneself, leading others, and coordinating interpersonal relationships.
What is Leadership Development and why is it necessary?
Leadership Development is very different from management development. Management is about doing things right, while leadership is about doing the right thing.
“Management is about doing things right, while leadership is about doing the right thing.”
Leadership Development starts with self-awareness. Leaders need to understand who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, and how their communication styles and behaviors can affect others. Leaders need to know how to maximize their strengths and those of their direct reports to optimize the team’s potential.
One of the key challenges in Leadership Development is a natural process that happens when you advance people from something they are good at into a role where they no longer do that familiar work. Directing and motivating others to do the job well or better than what they used to do themselves requires a new mindset, the requisite skills to delegate and trust, plus the emotional intelligence to let go.
Making that transition isn’t automatic. It’s not likely to be successful if you just leave people to achieve that on their own. Being able to transition from a skilled worker to a leader needs to be learned. In most cases, these newly promoted leaders believe they could do the task or job better if they were doing it themselves. Learning to delegate and trust others, including allowing for the mistakes they will inevitably make, is a process that requires training and an unlearning of past behavior.
“What makes someone a great salesperson doesn’t automatically make them a great sales manager. They need to learn how to let go and delegate. That’s not easy.”
Dr. Brad Spencer, Ph.D., SSCA founder
How Leadership Development intersects with cultural shiftsOrganizations are not merely names and numbers, although it can seem that some companies lack a sense of humanity. The fact is, people make up every organization.
Leaders face challenges that come from having different people, from different backgrounds, with different expectations working together. Generational dynamics, along with diverse levels of experience, add even more difficulty to the leadership role. And 2020 found leaders around the globe facing the leadership challenges of motivating remote teams.
Leaders who want to create a strong organization focused on achieving particular goals need to navigate these many sensitivities effectively.
Typically, that process begins with the leader looking inward. They need to develop an acute understanding of their own behaviors and communication styles. Without even realizing it, leaders can often push people away, resulting in the opposite of what they want to achieve, simply because they are not aware of how their communication or behavior is coming across. That’s where Leadership Development comes into play. Guided by outside experts, leaders learn to understand their behavioral styles, how to interact meaningfully with other styles, how to communicate better, and how to motivate others effectively.
Remote work is another cultural shift impacting today’s world. Human beings are built for social interaction and bonding. Office environments foster the use of quick “drive-by” meetings, where a leader can drop-in on a team member and see how they’re doing in an authentic way that demonstrates personal interest and caring. Social connection becomes even more important in a remote working environment where greater intention is required. Connecting with the same level of authenticity is a special challenge and Leadership Development can help shape those necessary skills.
A brief history of Leadership DevelopmentLeadership Development can be traced back to the need for leaders during WWII. Before the war, the focus had been on management development, with an emphasis on simply training people to do their jobs better. When the war began, corporations may have owned lots of highly trained hands, but they hadn't captured the hearts of the people working there.
This all began to change during the war. Great leaders, no matter what their background, were often identified not by their skill as soldiers, but by their ability to lead others in battle. Those who were capable of seeing their team members as people and relating to their individual needs tended to build the most effective teams, the teams that became legendary in turning the tide of the war.
After the war, with Europe and Asia destroyed, the world turned to America for manufacturing. As American businesses gained the benefit of this attention, there was a desperate need for better managers and leaders.
Out of this need grew two opposing viewpoints about employee motivation. One view held that people are basically lazy and want to avoid work, leading to an autocratic approach to management: a hammer. The other view was that people genuinely want to improve, want to take responsibility, and are driven to do the right thing at work. This view fostered a democratic leadership style.
Those who led well in battle during the war often applied this democratic approach. They knew that it was much easier to motivate people to charge into a field of deadly enemy fire if they trusted their teams and had gained their trust in return. Much of the effectiveness of this leadership style came from the leader’s ability to be transparent, recognize their own weaknesses, and relate to the needs of those they led. Those leaders proved to be more successful in the corporate world for the same reason.
Much of the effectiveness of this leadership style came from the leader’s ability to be transparent and able to recognize their own weaknesses.
Training programs that had been proven in wartime were applied to the corporate world to help leaders build respect and recognize the personal values, needs, and motivations of the people they led. Authors such as Peter Drucker inspired millions to change their focus to developing people within organizations. He assumed that business owners were intelligent, rational, hardworking people of good will. If their organizations struggled, he believed it was usually because of outdated ideas, a narrow conception of problems, or internal misunderstandings.
As America embarked on the NASA space program in the 1960s, the techniques for Leadership Development were accelerated. A lot was at stake. An entire nation began to recognize how leadership based on transparency and trust in others could achieve impossible things. An entire world witnessed the power of human potential. The Apollo 11 moon landing may have been history’s most dramatic example of democratic leadership in action.
Today, we face new challenges and cultural shifts. In particular, the modern crisis of conscience, in which businesses are striving for equitability, is bringing forth business challenges that may have otherwise been overlooked even just a few years ago. The world is continually changing. Leadership Development empowers leaders to endeavor at success both professionally and personally.
The role of the follower is to use their skills to meet organizational objectives while supporting their team and contributing mindfully to the leader. The role of the leader is to use skillful influence when setting goals, motivating the team, establishing culture, and navigating change. When these roles fall into place synergistically, the result can be remarkable. A study of the great leaders throughout history finds many examples of these dynamics in action.
In many ways, this can be viewed as the absence of hierarchy, a huge departure from the leadership styles that existed before WWII. That’s because trust exists on both sides, allowing both leader and followers to be moving in unity toward the same goals. The values of the organization flow down from the top, but if those values are clear and in line with the behaviors of leadership then a level playing field is possible.
How to adapt to the modern Leadership Development revolution
Cultural shifts have been so rapid in the past decade that Leadership Development can no longer be thought of as an evolutionary process, but a revolution.
More than ever, we need to adapt to the needs of the people we are leading, and those needs are changing exponentially. If you don’t have diversity and inclusivity in your leadership process, you may lose credibility and will lose the ability to lead a certain percentage of your people.
Another aspect in this revolution is that people want humanity and purpose to come first. No longer optional, this is an expectation in the workforce. Leaders who are unaware of that distinction will lose the ability to motivate and inspire. Simultaneously, those who can navigate the complexity of putting people first without sacrificing the mission will succeed.
To be successful, modern leaders need to adopt a mindset to help team members meet their individual needs and goals. Once they do that, the team can work together to achieve the organization’s goals of success and profitability.
In today’s world, great leaders have the ability to ask a question to which they have no answer. That humility resonates well in contemporary organizations. While transparency was once viewed as a weakness of leadership, today it creates stronger leaders and teams.
“Modern leaders don’t need to know everything. They just need to know what questions to ask.”
Thomas M. Shenk, SSCA Partner
How can we relate to and understand the needs of those we lead? How can we optimize our communication style so that we can engage, influence, and motivate? How do we prepare people for major changes in business culture or focus? How do we deal with conflicting personalities? How can I be trusted in my role as a leader? These are just a few of the vital questions leaders face, yet there is no business training to prepare them.
Take your typical MBA program. There are courses on finance, management, diversity, marketing strategy, and other practical aspects of business. But even leadership courses tend to be light on the genuine issues of how to deal with people.
Leadership Development by SSCA begins where a degree like an MBA ends. Using scientifically verified research and insights, experienced advisors guide leaders through an understanding of the human elements of business and organizational leadership.
In many areas of modern corporate culture, humanity and the understanding of people has become increasingly important. If followers do not feel that they are seen, heard, that their humanity is being recognized, the odds that they will achieve the expected outcome nosedive.
SSCA’s distinctive and proprietary approach leverages proven scientific principles of human behavior to help leaders to connect to the humanity of the people they lead, building organizations that are stronger, more resilient, and more successful. This behavioral approach to solving complex business problems has been a primary focus of the organization for more than 40 years.
SSCA workshops apply sophisticated insights into human behavior backed by proven scientific research. Learn more
Leadership Development in a world of diversityThe past few years have seen refocused attention on the importance of diversity and inclusion in leadership roles. How does Leadership Development assist with these issues?
Two primary issues are intimately connected to diversity and inclusion when it comes to leadership.
The first is that every person in the organization comes from a cultural background that affects their worldview. This diversity is fundamental. If everyone thought exactly the same way, the team would be redundant. Differences bring richness to the conversation. They lead to more creative solutions to problems.
In addition to varying backgrounds and worldviews, societal difficulties or unrest can also interfere with a team’s ability to align. This external noise can bring forth such experiences as anger at not being recognized, frustration at perceived or real bias, or a sense that the person is not being seen, heard, or valued. If such feelings persist, it can be difficult for the leader to motivate and unify the team.
This diversity of viewpoints means each person will interpret the things they see and hear through their lens. In communicating, it’s not what is said that counts, but what is heard. What the leader says and does will not necessarily be viewed in the same way by each person on the team. That’s why it has never been more important for leaders to look inward and see themselves through the eyes of others, to ensure their intentions match their impact.
Leadership Development is a Lifelong Process
Developing as a leader is not something you work on for a time and one day “arrive at.” It’s a lifelong process. Coaching through this process is important because change is constant and the challenges faced shift like the wind.
Leadership Development coaching helps leaders see things from a perspective they may not have considered before. By asking questions, the coach helps the leader see how their words and actions might be creating messages or outcomes that weren’t intended or foreseen. The expertise of SSCA’s trusted advisors helps leaders discover new mental models that mold their understanding of themselves, their roles, and their influence on the people around them. Training that does not reshape the way a leader thinks has no long-term impact.
Modern leadership training focuses on specific areas, as compared to generic training used in the past. Today there is a greater demand for the research behind the concepts, ensuring they aren’t outdated, irrelevant, or inapplicable ideas of the past.
Performance evaluation has also been impacted by constantly changing cultural shifts. Instead of focusing only on actions and results toward organizational goals, modern evaluation methods focus on the individual’s goals and experiences as well. Today, these evaluations focus more on how the employee feels, instead of how well they handle specific tasks. No doubt we’ll experience further evolution of leadership in the years to come. Leaders need to adapt continually to such changes through ongoing training.
Are you getting everything you want from your team? Are you or your leaders getting training that recognizes the realities of these modern cultural shifts? Is it time to explore some options? Contact SSCA to see how our team of Leadership Development experts might be able to help.
“We slow people down in order to speed up, to help them inspire others.”
Stephanie Tran, SSCA Partner
Common Leadership MythsLeadership development is misunderstood, perhaps because of the many changes that have taken place over the past few decades. Here are some of the most common myths about leadership.
Myth: Leaders are Born
While some personality types lend themselves more easily to skillful influence, very few people are born leaders. Most great leaders have applied a conscious effort to achieve their skills through Leadership Development training and mentorship.
Myth: Leaders are Extroverts
Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert has very little to do with your ability to motivate and lead others. Many of the world’s most outstanding leaders have led quiet lives that didn’t draw undue attention to themselves but focused the attention on others.
Myth: Leaders need a high IQ
Great leadership has little to do with one’s level of intelligence and a lot to do with transparency, passion, and commitment to others. SSCA’s definition of leadership is “the skillful use of influence” and sometimes high intelligence can get in the way of relating to others.
Myth: Leaders need an MBA
Degrees like an MBA are valuable, especially in the early stages of a career in management. However, examining the most influential and successful organizations in the world reveals that many highly effective leaders have no advanced degree.