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Stop Wasting Money on Leadership Development and do Something Different.Part 1

The past few years have seen a greater focus on leadership development perhaps not surprisingly after the GFC fall out, but what is the return on investment? In September 2011 IEDP, in association with Deloitte’s Leadership practice, surveyed over 300 executives on their perceptions and experiences of leadership development. The results were disappointing if not unsurprising. Just 7.9% of leaders rated their current leadership as very effective and a 4.3% their leadership development as very effective

So why so much dissatisfaction over leadership development?

The Leadership by Design view is that in spite of 20 years of research and identification of clear adult learning principles this understanding is not being effectively translated into business leadership development design and practice.

Check out our free 22 page E Book Leadership Strategy Demystified here

We believe there are a number of factors, so in this short article let’s start with perhaps the most important thing to incorporate into your design of any leadership intervention.

How to Facilitate a personal motivation to change?

Learning has to be thought of as a personal change process. Leaders only commit to development that they can see a personal pay off for. When asked in the Deloitte survey what development is most effective for leaders? the overwhelming response (60%)was creating a  personal development plan , or (47%) development  aligned with their own career aspirations. These high preferences have also been echoed in previous Corporate Executive Council Research.

The bottom line is if you want to roll out company wide leadership capability building programmes you have to find out about and work with the individual agendas of your trainees and not just the company agenda .

Neuroscience tells us the same thing: we are hard wired to prefer to be autonomous and we have a preference  for our own ideas . Clearly the most effective learning is self-directed.

Also, we need to acknowledge that change is hard at an individual human brain level. Most people are experts at rationalising their own behaviours and finding excuses/reasons  not to change. Leaders need to be actively helped to understand themselves their impact on others and their strengths and weaknesses. They need to develop a mental model of how they could be better or improve and they need to see a clear benefit for embarking on that journey.

Without that clarity motivation and engagement  is inconsistent at best, as is learning application.

If we want to generate real business impact from our leadership development interventions we believe we need to design in 2 things:

  1. To incorporate individualised activities that take account of the learners goals
  2. Treat the leadership development intervention  as an organisational change activity.

Practically that means designing in some or all of the following :

  • Thinking around how the leadership intervention is communicated and contextualized,
  • How all stakeholders are co-opted to support the change,
  • Using feedback, diagnostic  and reflective  tactics to help leaders clarify for themselves where they are and where they need to be.
  • Helping leaders to plan and systemise their action
  • Providing support mechanisms to help them keep focused and learning from their experiences.

You may think some of the above is common sense . All we can say is that we agree with Voltaire “Common sense is not common”  In our experience Leaders have already invested heavily in their existing behaviours and need some help in reflecting and clarifying for themselves why changing might be a good idea going forward.

Not to recognize how important this is for learning is liable to mean you are wasting your organisation’s money and time .

Unclear on your best leadership development approach?

We are happy to offer you a free no obligation white board and coffee session to help you get clearer on your questions and possible solutions. Click here to contact us

Leaders are from Venus and Mars

I noticed some new 360 UK survey analysis findings  from Talent Innovations on leadership gender differences. To be honest I usually get irritated by “Men are from Mars and Women from Venus” type articles and the often unsubstantiated generalizations. However  this  analysis is based upon 14,000 360 feedback summaries from UK leaders and managers so I figured it was worth a look.

Talent Innovations  tried to identify the differences in how men and women were rated against a set of 18 generic managerial and leadership competencies.

In summary, women scored higher than men in the competencies of planning and managing activities, respect & empathy for others and personal responsibility. Men score higher in strategic vision, commercial focus and personal impact. They tend to be less socially-sensitive and are more focused on the rational, practical and commercial aspects of achieving results.

There was no information on how the ranges of results by gender overlapped each other.

According to Elva Ainsworth, managing director of Talent Innovations “Men and women tend to excel in different aspects of leadership. The ‘male leadership style’ is strategic and visionary, while the ‘female leadership style’ is more social.”

On one hand, this study highlights the general areas in which men and women may need leadership development. However, on the other, it suggests that the natural styles of men and women could be complementary.

It might be an interesting question to ponder: Would a culture that supported diversity and a better balancing of both types of leadership  could bring about higher organisation performance?

Check out our free 22 page E Book Leadership Strategy Demystified here


The Myth of the “Lone Ranger ”

extroverted leadershipWestern culture, particularly in business and politics, seems to be in love with the charismatic leader — the guns blazing, no-holds barred, centre-of-attention leader, who is a super-confident, aggressively decisive leader of a band of star-struck followers.

It is an interesting question why do we value extroversion in leaders?  Is it something to with our individualistic society?

And in love we are! 

Research from the  Academy of Management Journal reported that whereas just 50% of the general population is extroverted, 96% of managers and executives display such personalities.

I have to say these figures don’t really reflect my personal experience in NZ corporates but the point is well made.

According to the aforementioned journal study, the higher you go in a corporate hierarchy, the more likely you are to find highly extrovert individuals. ( I think you could put together a persuasive  case that the GFC and Wall Street financial scandals and even foreign policy and political problems are linked to the dominance of extroverted leaders.)

The Academy of Management Journal research (Francesca Gino of Harvard University and David Hoffman of the University of North Carolina,) shows a significant correlation between the types of leadership style needed and the personalities and behaviour of employees.

They argue that extroverted leadership commands attention: being assertive, bold, talkative and dominant, providing a clear authority, structure and direction. However, pairing extroverted leaders with employees who take the initiative, are more independent and speak out can lead to conflict, while pairing the same type of employees with an introverted leader can be more successful.

Unclear on your best leadership development approach?

We are happy to offer you a free no obligation white board and coffee session to help you get clearer on your questions and possible solutions. Click here to contact us

The study also showed when employees are more proactive, introverted managers lead them to higher profits, whereas where employees are not proactive, extroverted managers are more successful. They concluded that introverted and extroverted leadership styles can be equally effective, but with different kinds of employees.

It could be that the status and reputation of quiet, introverted leadership is undervalued and under-appreciated.

It is clear extroverts are still favoured in recruiting and promoting decisions. Yet recent research reveals that introverted, quiet leaders may be more suited for today’s workplaces.

“Introverts are more receptive to people since they tend to listen more than extroverts,” Gino says. “The fact they are more receptive is due primarily to their ability and willingness to listen carefully to what others have to say without being threatened.”

One thing is for sure. The workplace is populated by increasing numbers of intelligent, knowledge workers, frequently in self-managing teams, particularly those of Generation Y.

Many of these workers don’t see themselves as passive employees waiting for orders nor do they want to be controlled by an egocentric extroverted leader. So maybe the time is right for us to embrace the  introverted leadership style or at least look for a better balance in leadership styles in some of our organisations.

I would be interested in any views from senior leadership recruiters out there do we place too much weight on being an extrovert?.

Check out our free 22 page E Book Leadership Strategy Demystified here