Developing leaders

Zurina Panesar | 26 May 2021 | News | Performance, Lead Change, General

If organisations are so poor at developing leaders, why wait for them? Director & Co-founder James Farrow, shares his top 3 tips on what it takes for organisations to develop and retain great leaders.

Organisations have an obligation to develop leaders. That’s one way of looking at it. What if we looked at it like this: most organisations don’t have the knowledge and/or passion to develop great leaders.

What are our options now?

This is a call out to all those aspiring leaders out there:

Don’t wait for your organisation. They may even be more focused on trying to recruit external ‘ready made’ talent than they are in developing internal potential.

But where to start?

Working with leaders across the globe, one thing strikes me that seems to persist everywhere regardless of continent or culture: people are so focused on the day to day challenges that they are not developing the skills they will need for their next role.

Leaders get into the position and then find out they don’t have what it takes. Where else in life do we let this happen?

If you have ever run a marathon, it is very unlikely that you turned up at the start line on a whim, with no training or preparation under your belt. Odds are is that you fully prepared for the event before you got there.

  1. Leadership tip one: prepare before the race, don’t just rock up!

From a leadership perspective, this is what it means:

The lens through which your performance is judged will change entirely when you become a leader. Develop the skills of the future lens, don’t fall into the trap of believing that what people value from you today will be the same when you become a leader.

All too often, people think that the technical skills they have learned doing the job are the same skills they need in leadership. This is misplaced. While there are some exceptions, generally once you start leading people, they care less about how good you are at the task, they care more about: your strategic perspective; your ability to motivate and inspire others; your focus on developing self and those around you; communicating brilliantly, and so on.

Be clear on the skills you will need once the starting gun fires because once the race starts, the only skills available to you will be the ones you have purposefully built into your life.

  1. Leadership tip two: leadership is learning.

There is a big difference between an amateur and a professional in any walk of life. Just putting yourself in the right mindset will determine how you act.

Make no mistake, leadership is a profession. It requires the dedication of a professional, not the loose commitment of an amateur.

The key here is to be completely honest with yourself. Are you passionate about being the best leader you can be? Or are you just after a few extra quid?

You have an obligation to be exceptional.

Your organisation has an obligation to help you learn and develop the capability but you have to do the reading. The studying. The TED talks. The blogs. And most important of all, put in the practice.  Convert this knowledge into action.

  1. Leadership tip three: be coachable

Whenever I am asked to coach someone (mostly C-suite executives or aspiring leaders these days) I always look to answer one question in the first meeting. Are you coachable?

Being coachable is a mindset, it is not a skill. It is simply having some self-recognition that you can achieve different and better outcomes if you perhaps changed something about yourself.

Coaching is not about ‘how do I change my boss, my colleague, my team…’ Coaching is about ‘how do I change me’.

And with that change you will be amazed at what happens around you.

Taking extreme responsibility for your own outcomes is hard at first but ultimately it gives you complete power. For any situation in your life where you want to understand how you ended up with a particular outcome, simply ask yourself these two questions:

  • What did I do and say that ultimately led to this outcome?
  • What did I NOT do and NOT say that ultimately led to this outcome?

Be completely honest. You will find that there is always something you can do to influence a situation. You can’t guarantee the outcome of course but you can guarantee that you have the ability to behave differently to influence it.

If you are open to personal change, prepared to take total responsibility, then you already have the potential to be a great leader.

What must organisations do:

In my opinion, too few organisations treat leadership as a profession. They train technical skills related to the task but they fail to truly embrace leadership as its own form of professional capability.

There are exceptions of course. But if you work for one of those organisations that is a bit behind, then don’t wait.

Be coachable: take total responsibility for your outcomes (don’t blame the organisation).

Study up: learn like a professional.

Train now for the future: build the specific skills you will need once the race starts.

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