Olena Sergeyeva – approved tutor of Edinburgh Business School in Ukraine, Organizational Behavior MBA course. Leadership Development Consultant and Coach. Article by author column for Business Censor media portal.
The times of the single leader-hero are already in the past. The world has become too complex, organizations are international, and the tasks that need to be solved require the involvement of diverse teams. Advances in technology, transparency of borders, accessibility of information, changing expectations of generations mean new demands on leaders and leadership.
Leadership as a phenomenon associated with an exceptional person, followed by others obediently, has exhausted itself. Today, leadership is the task of everyone in the organization.
Therefore, when organizations claim that their strategic priorities include leadership development, it is not about a single manager or top manager.
Leadership needs to be developed as a function. It is with the help of teams that you can implement large projects, make informed decisions, and make consistent transformations.
Can leadership be developed? From my own experience and cooperation with many executives, I know that leaders are not born but become. But to say that any person can be a leader is absurd.
Having a desire to lead and certain psychological characteristics make some of us more capable of leadership than others.
It is about optimism, confidence, intelligence and common sense, charisma, ability to inspire, social skills (the ability to communicate, show respect and diplomacy, the ability to build cooperative relationships, show empathy). Having these qualities enhances the likelihood of success in leadership roles, but does not guarantee it.
A high level of self-awareness, that is, an understanding of one’s strengths and limitations, allows the leader to more proficiently master his or her own competences, in parallel with the desire to create complementary teams.
These are teams where the strengths of each complement and reinforce each other and where everyone understands the value of the contribution of the other players. Also important for the leader is the ability to adapt to change and learn constantly.
Openness to the new, curiosity and purposeful self-development (for example, the ability to speak publicly or inspire a team) are the source of drive for both the leader and his environment.
Leadership development in organizations is inevitably linked to strategic management, having a vision (to what ideal do we aspire to?), understanding the mission (why do we do everything we do?), and building on core values (what is important to us? what principles do we build our work for?).
If the organization has at least approximate clarity that it is important to it, what the interaction will be built on and what type of relationships within the organization will be able to propel it to long-term success, then this can form a vector for leadership development for all levels of management. It is advisable to determine all this at the start so you know in advance what to focus on.
For example, if an organization values honesty, transparency, partnerships with contractors, then most likely it will become one of the competencies for the organization’s leaders – they will need to have integrity and honesty.
And while it is important for the organization to be result-oriented, then the leadership development program will have the important task of combining attention to achievement and performance with honesty and integrity.
To participate in any development program, the starting point must be the desire of the participant, an assessment of his or her strengths and weaknesses, and the formation of a development plan that is integrated into the overall human development plan of the company. You should also decide on the methods by which the organization will develop leadership.
The following methods are most commonly used:
This is a classic method. Training can be internal (by internal trainers and mentors), external or combine both approaches.
As a rule, the development of leadership is associated with a specific practical component – the analysis of learning situations, the development of skills on specific tasks, modeling tasks as closely as possible to the real ones.
Even a very interactive exercise in classroom does not necessarily mean that it is automatically converted to everyday practice. We need the support and example of senior management who lives and operates under the same laws that preach in development programs.
Managers’ performance evaluation systems need to include aspects related to leadership effectiveness (ability to build cohesive and productive teams, ability to build engagement beyond their own field, etc.).
Real challenges and projects (action-based learning) are needed to encourage participants in the development program to put their knowledge into practice and gain new experiences that can be further discussed and systematized during subsequent training sessions.
For example, a similar system is used in the Leadership Skills Development Program for the Swiss holding company Ferrexpo, a comprehensive top management development program created by the House of Knowledge educational platform.
Good training programs necessarily involve the active involvement of real top executives from the organization – carriers of history and culture, whose influence on the format of the program and direct communication with which can inspire participants and give them real-life examples of what it takes to succeed right here.
2. Evaluation and feedback.
These include various forms of assessment – self-assessment, psychological tests, aptitude tests, supervisor assessment, 360-degree evaluation when colleagues, supervisors, and subordinates evaluate you, any meaningful feedback a person receives from others.
Often, several evaluation methods are used to obtain an objective picture. Being aware of who and who I am, and how I am perceived by others, helps me determine for myself what areas to work with during a development program.
For example, you can choose two or three tasks – lack of self-confidence and the ability to present yourself as a leader (not as a performer) within the organization, or a person is not able to motivate others and build effective relationships in the team.
Next, a specific personal task is formed and the focus of attention is on the tools, methods, and information dedicated to these areas.
3. Planned work experience.
If the organization has the understanding that many experienced executives will be needed to achieve future goals, then it is possible to deliberately immerse people with an interest in greater responsibility into the broader experience that will be useful in the future.
This includes horizontal rotation for different roles to form a larger-scale vision of business processes and functions, internships, geographical rotation, team projects.
4. Mentoring and coaching.
Leadership development is a rather individualized process, because we are talking about working on ourselves and on conscious transformations of ourselves as individuals. Therefore, one of the most powerful working methods here is one-on-one support. It can be done with help of an internal mentor / curator – i.e. a mentoring process in which you have the opportunity to regularly seek the advice and tips of someone higher in position to better understand the organization, develop your own career, build relationships with people with influence, receive emotional support from a person who has already taken place in the organization.
Also external coaching is often used. This means working with an external mentor (unbiased in internal political interactions and dispositions of power and influence), whose experience and skills are used to help solve problems, increase self-efficacy and achieve goals through promoting dialogues.
It is a method that enables a person to become the shadow of an experienced and successful leader in order to see in real time what and how he or she is doing.
Some organizations use this method on an ongoing basis. For example, you may be one day with a seasoned supervisor one day during the month – watch his actions, ask him questions in breaks and take the experience live.
Strong leaders are successful at the expense of their ability to build strong teams, which means constant personal investment in the development and support of others.
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In a competitive environment, the organization must constantly adapt to change. Its effectiveness depends on the motivation and behavior of the staff. In order to transform staff capabilities into capital, the use of appropriate incentives, the creation of effective teams, the development of an attractive work environment and the management of organizational change dynamics. By understanding the principles of organization behavior, you gain a deeper understanding of how you, as an executive, relate to other members of the organization.
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