Leadership development is a big industry by now, and comfortably falls under the banner of Talent Management. Like many innovations in business, targeted development of high performers started as a worthy cause.
Our pioneers began promoting ideas like succession planning at a time when such topics were considered morbid and disrespectful to those at the helm. Researchers published bold findings that advocated for servant leadership replacing the prior era’s preferred leadership style of command and control. Of course executive learning institutes were built inside traditional educational institutions and exploded with experiential training, simulations, and birthed a contemporary versions of the old T-group approach of giving tough and direct feedback.
Personally, I am thrilled with the progress made in this industry. The work I do as an executive coach is distinctly more valued, and even better, there is evidence that it works. The circumstances change, the complexities to unravel with my clients change, but the work never changes: keep your client at the center of the work; help them to use their strengths more deliberately; help them understand that their weaknesses should either be improved or simply tempered. And of course confront blind spots because what they don’t know can decimate their career.
However, the down side to leadership development becoming so much a part of mainstream is that things that used to mean something now sound like jargon. Leadership books, training and workshops teach similar leadership methods and approaches creating a generation of leaders who all think and sound alike. So if leadership development has become the soap box, what can you say that will help you sound unique? For those of you, who really want to give critical thought to your unique leadership style and foster genuine followership, learn from what’s out there and weave it into something meaningful and authentic. The good news is that 99% of your cohorts don’t want to, or say they do but won’t do what it takes. So right out of the gate, your competition will likely sit this one out.
First, step way back from everything you’ve heard, learned, and read about leadership. You’re at square 32, and inevitably missed a lot of the fundamentals of leadership when you were first asked to lead. Instead…let’s start at square one. Consider your ideas and beliefs about human nature, human behavior, what motivates people, and how environments inspire people. Your deeply held beliefs and values about these things form the foundation of a leadership philosophy. This inter-connected set of ideas is the core of your unique model of leadership. It may be the first time since college that people. You may well find that your strong and evocative ideas energize people and you’ve given credence to your own original thoughts.