The global recession, directly or indirectly, will impact leadership – yours, your market, your competition, your region and, yes, your nation. Why?
Because leadership is ubiquitous. It is all around us. It is of primary importance. Yet, it is seemingly underserved, undervalued and under resourced. Need some proof?
According to the Development Dimensions International ‘s Global Leadership Forecast 2008/09 (1) from research of 1493 HR professionals and 12,208 business leaders across 76 countries:
- 75% of business leaders identified that improving or leveraging of leadership talent was their #1 priority.
- Only 41% of business leaders are satisfied with the help they get to develop leadership capabilities.
- One of the core needs within organizations is to create a sustainable supply of quality leaders.
- The primary skill shortfall amongst organizations is in leadership skills and interpersonal skills.
Leadership is a leaking bucket. All organizations, large and small, from the family to local sport team to government to the boardroom of a leading global company, will at some time need to replace leaders. This arises from necessity and/or from natural attrition. From the information above, there is clearly a pervasive problem or, in a more positive tone, there is an opportunity – an opportunity to address this chronic shortcoming. How?
Start with yourself. Leadership starts from within.
To begin to explore this important distinction let’s start by looking at the definition of leadership.According to the Oxford Dictionary leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this.
To lead is to cause (a person or animal) to go with one by holding them by the hand, a halter, a rope, etc. while moving forward.
Leadership therefore requires influence, direction and action. However, for leadership to manifest so that others follow, it stands to reason that the leader, whoever or whatever that may be, must first influence themselves, give self-direction and act on that direction.
There exists a perennial question about leadership – “Are leaders born or made?” or to rephrase it “Nature versus nurture”.
Why does it need to be one or the other? Do you see many babies leading Fortune 500s or governments or the local sports team? Regardless of your opinion or perceptions one thing is for sure. Leadership is something into which you grow. Importantly, we are all born to lead ourselves at least!
In nature there must be reasonably synchronous growth regardless of the “ecosystem”. Teenagers may experience growing pains when their bones are growing at a faster rate than their muscles. Our DNA is programmed so that eventually growth levels out and all systems are aligned and developed to their full design specification.
An individual promoted to a new role in an organization can experience a skill, attitude and/or ability gap compared to the new demands. To address the gap or deficit, the same individual must seek within first and begin the process of change there.
Admittedly, in organizations it is possible to experience growing pains too – sales and demand exceed the ability to supply and/or service the customer. Leadership must, therefore, develop within the organization to address the imbalance and ensure that harmony is restored.
What Does Google Have To Say?
As Google is the #1 search engine, it gives an impartial and objective perspective on leadership.
Just by typing in “leadership” yields 118 million results – sites, references etc. According to Google AdWords searches on the word “leadership” receives >4 million hits globally per month. Both of these facts suggest that leadership is a topic of significant interest and that there is a huge diversity of data, opinions, perceptions, models, styles, concepts and experts. The monthly searches also suggest there is a perpetual quest for answers, solutions and information on leadership.
Interestingly, when the global search is narrowed there are only:
- 4400 hits per month for “successful leadership”
- 33,100 hits per months for “effective leadership” and
- 18,100 hits per month for “self-leadership”.
It is interesting that, in the face of all the need out there for leadership, the refined search on successful and effective leadership globally produces comparatively so few hits. Why is that? Is there a global delusion that we just need to know more about leadership or just understand it better rather than define what it takes to make a good leader or even a great one or to establish a legacy of outstanding leadership?
People – Your Most Important Asset
The mantra that people are your most important asset is spoken around the world. Too bad the mantra is wrong.
People are not your most important asset – the right people are. And that is especially true for the right leaders. The right leaders will attract, inspire, develop and retain the right people. The right leaders will be intent on growing other leaders. The right leaders will start by growing themselves – from the inside out. They know that to be a great leader they have to establish their own strong foundation of principles, values and attitudes.
A skills-based approach to leadership, however, takes an outside-in approach. That is where many individuals, teams and organizations get it wrong and contribute significantly to the statistics of the Global Leadership Forecast 2008/9. A skills approach to leadership assumes that good foundations have been laid upon which to lay the skills. To outright ignore examining and establishing the right foundation is in place is a huge risk. Regrettably, whether assumptions have been made or the matter outright ignored, this often equates, effectively, to throwing skills on Teflon. The result is skills will not stick.
Applying the skills-based approach, consider a formula for success, here applied to leadership, as Be x Do = Have. Have = good right leadership. Do = skills. Be =? Without addressing the ‘Be’ it is no surprise that leadership is chronically found wanting.
You get the people you deserve. It’s your decision. For you to attract and lead better people you need to become the leader those people need and desire. That means you must invest in yourself first.
Where to Start
The majority of leaders should know and understand that people are the core building block of their team and/or organization. But to be an effective leader, you need to know the core building block of your people – their respective roles.
Many organizations just look at their people in their professional capacity. Whilst they may invest in their development and endeavour to lead them they often miss the mark. To ensure that your leadership “fits” and attracts the right people doing the right things to generate the right results, you need to ensure that you take into account all the roles each person comes to work with – within and outside the team or organization. This means you must address their personal roles outside of work e.g. parent, spouse, charity volunteer, team captain of local hockey team and coach of daughter’s swim team (5 roles).
All of a person’s roles show up at work. A leader is no different. They have as many if not more roles. The right leader will be addressing their growth and development in each role according to priorities and available “resources” (time, money etc.).
Self-leadership therefore begins by identifying core roles, prioritizing them, planning their development and then acting on the plan. To do all that it must begin from within.
Interestingly, a leader will attract into their lives people and circumstances from which to learn and grow. Life is, after all, a mirror. The quality of your leadership is determined by the quality of your relationships.
There are two often quoted adages – love your neighbour as yourself and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. These both stress the importance of meaningful relationships and emphasize that all relationships start with you.
So leadership starts with your relationship with yourself. To improve your relationships with others so that you can become a better leader, you need to improve your relationship with yourself first. Regrettably, this revelation is often overlooked and/or not given the attention it is due.
A Critical Ingredient
Any relationship starts with you. Leadership starts with you. Self-leadership (and any leadership for that matter), to be effective, is dependent on the ability to communicate well – internally and externally. There is plenty of focus on external communication. For example, throughout the school systems around the world there is an emphasis regarding training around the messages from our mouth and from our pen or keyboard. However, what has been sadly overlooked is the greater importance of our internal communication.
All communication starts as a thought before it is translated into words and messages. How many of us have allowed ourselves to “speak first and think later”? What was the result? In many instances it likely created some unwelcome ripples in your life and in your leadership.
We all have an internal voice – actually we have two – our internal ally or our internal adversary. Our ally is working for us. Our adversary is working against us. As a leader which voice is loudest most often or to which one do you listen to most? When the adversary prevails it is often because we are reacting to a situation or challenge. Self-leadership knows to proactively and consciously control the voice to which it listens.
With self-leadership our internal (and external) communication must be open, honest, clear, timely and, at times, radical. Integrity then flows from this. When our thoughts line up with our words our actions will follow in alignment. We are congruent. We walk the talk. When we do that people do what people see. Your self-leadership then flows into leadership.
To help initiate your self-leadership here are some extremely helpful questions for you to consider:
- What is the detailed profile of the ideal leader for you, your team or your organization?
- What are the foundations for self-leadership?
- On a scale of 1-10 (1 being poor and 10 being excellent) how do you score on self-leadership?
- In the event you did not score a 10 for #3 what do you need to be and/or do to improve your score to an 8+?
- How do you encourage and develop self-leadership individually and/or as team or organization?
- Where applicable, how will you integrate self-leadership into your existing leadership development?
There is a global need for leadership – always will be. The important distinction is the need for great leadership. Great leaders lead themselves well first. But before they become great they know they have to grow into it. To do that means they must invest in themselves first and begin that by developing themselves from the inside out role by role. Ultimately, the quality of your leadership is determined by the quality of your relationships which are determined by the quality of your internal or self-communication.
Leadership brings change. Change is inevitable; growth is optional. To grow as a leader, whether as an individual, team or organization, you must therefore change. That change must begin with you. Leadership starts from within you.