Developing Leaders – An 11-Step Approach

Successful organisations don’t wait forleaders to appear, they actively seek out people with leadership potential and expose them to career experiences to develop that potential. With careful selection, nurturing and encouragement, people at all levels can play important leadership roles. Leadership can be learned. In our view, the learning process requires three objectives:
1. Understanding that developing leaders is fundamental to organisational success.
2. Defining what leadership is and what it means to lead.
3. Identifying and rewarding leadership behaviour.
The first objective is the realisation that developing leadership in the organisation must be top priority. Unfortunately, many organisations neglect to make significant progress with leadership initiatives until senior management realise the need for more systemic process in identifying and developing talent.
The second objective is showing people what leadership is and what it means to lead. It is wise to have as wide set of experiences as possible. problem in many companies where there is still residual hankering after the days of top-down control is that there is too much vertical mobility. Managers inch up the same ladder, learning more and more about less and less. But some organisations are moving promising people, or ‘talent’, around horizontally, so they serve time in other divisions to give them kaleidoscopic view of the organisation and coaching from variety of mentors.
Third, people must realise they can be leaders and master leadership behaviours. While not everyone can unite nations, almost everyone can develop and improve their leadership skills. The roots of effective leadership are more practical than style and charisma. Leadership is based on set of observable behaviours. Whatever person’s personality or character, he or she can improve as leader simply by mastering these behaviours. Once successfully practised and mastered, the organisation must reinforce the behaviours with recognition and rewards for their leaders.
These three objectives can be accomplished successfully by following the steps described in Figure One.
The purpose of identifying and developing the next generation of leaders is to prepare them for the challenges of the business environment and the organisation’s objectives. The model begins with foundation of knowledge about your organisation’s objectives and then develops leadership competency model.
This describes the behaviours that encompass the skills, attitudes, motives and temperament that distinguish top talent.

Step one: Convert goals into challenges
Business strategies need to be defined sufficiently so that critical leadership challenges can be identified. Strategies do not have to be elaborate, but they must have enough substance so that the leadership need for carrying it out is inferred.
This is the first and critical step to developing future leaders because if this process is going to succeed, the senior team must be engaged from the start. Making the leap from “leadership is important” to “leadership can be developed” is substantial issue for many executives. By converting objectives and strategies into specific leadership challenges, executives have an easier time connecting leadership to specific actions and behaviours that can shape business performance.

Step two: Develop leadership model
The second step, developing leadership competency model, defines what leadership means in the organisation and what it means to lead. Most leadership experts will say that the indispensable first quality is guiding vision or clear idea of what needs to be done. But why listen to just the “experts”? Each organisation needs to go through process of defining leadership and the critical few characteristics required of leaders in their particular circumstances.
There are many qualities in good leader, but not all leaders have the same qualities. Some have more charisma than others. Some are more patient. There are three basic components of leadership: inspiration, credibility and conviction (see Leadership Qualities p25). All three are necessary and need to be in balance – leader who has inspiration but not credibility and conviction becomes demagogue.

Steps three and four: Assign coaches and identify participants
Steps three and four identify leadership coaches and participants in the development process. Support and guidance from coach becomes critical if participants are making behavioural changes that are not easy or comfortable.
The three primary roles the coach plays – elaborated on at left – are:
1. To educate and communicate.
2. To advise and support.
3. To act as advocate and broker.
The coach can be found within the organisation or externally (there are many independent consulting firms running executive and managerial coaching and leadership programmes), but they should not be the person’s manager. It is important to keep this initiative as objective as possible.
There are many ways to select participants for leadership development. Allow people to nominate themselves and others by giving them access to selection criteria. Ultimately, it will be the executive group that decides who will be in the high-potential category. These participants should receive the full development offering, while others can participate, but receive less attention. Everyone who wants to participate should be able to, at some level.
More and more, new top executives around the world have been former strategic HR managers. Therefore ensure that the HR people in your organisation are surrounded by your top leaders.

Step five: Conduct assessments
Once participants have entered the process, the next step is to conduct an assessment of each person to identify their strengths and weaknesses compared to leadership definitions and the competency model. The key to making the assessment process work is:
• Selecting appropriate assessment tools that meet the following criteria:
– easy to use
– match to skills required
– provide proven and validated information
– are consistent with organisation and learning philosophy
• Communicating the purpose and use of assessment
• Administering the assessment process (eg coordinate structured interviews, test taking, etc.)
• Scoring and interpreting results and writing reports:
– individual participants
– aggregate profile of high performing managers
• Creating development plan that the individual can be accountable to.

Steps six and seven: Train coaches and provide feedback to participants
Just after the assessment process starts, coaches should be given some training and orientation in order for them to fulfil the critical roles described earlier. The coach should be involved in providing assessment feedback to participants, and helping individuals to write their development plans. The coach ensures that participants receive development recommendations and knows how to complete the “development planner”.

Step eight: Plan development
The development planner becomes the participant’s guide for action. It contains specific recommendations for strengthening each effective leadership competency. It should also contain developmental journal to record the thoughts and reflections of participants as they progress through the leadership development experience.

Step nine: Design measures
The “designing measures” step ensures that each participant, as well as the executive team, will be held accountable for following through on development plans. This step can also include designing post-assessment tools and measures to monitor progress. How can we accurately gauge the “returns” on leadership development process? Developing leaders is an elusive long-term investment. Tracking the returns from this process requires diligence and discipline. It starts at the individual level with each participant and coach establishing targets to measure progres

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