Leadership is about what you do

There may be a simple reason why leadership development, a global, multibillion dollar industry, doesn’t seem to have produced many good leaders.

Professor Barbara Kellerman of Harvard University made an interesting observation when she said, “Leaders of every sort are in disrepute; we don’t have much better an idea of how to grow good leaders, or of how to stop or at least slow bad leaders, than we did a hundred or even a thousand years ago …”

That really makes us have to think about how we’re developing our leaders. As a species, we’ve not managed to get a good ROI for our leadership development.

Why is it that the quality of leaders that graduate from prestigious business schools, universities and other institutions do very little to inspire confidence?

Few people really understand the difference between leadership and management, and thus use the terms in all sorts of inappropriate ways. In a nutshell, leadership is about creating the right environment and management is about getting the job done. Sometimes leadership involves management (getting the job done) and that’s a necessary part of being a leader.

There are probably many reasons for the poor state of leadership in the world and in our country. One of them is that people seek out leadership positions because of their own personal agendas. They see leadership as providing power, prestige and wealth, and so chase such positions not for what they can do for others but for what they can do for themselves. Once they’re in a leadership position, they set about serving themselves rather than others.

This, of course, speaks to the values that leaders have or don’t have. It stands to reason that leaders with the wrong values will create a toxic environment. There is plenty of evidence of that around the world.

Another reason that the wrong people get into leadership positions could be found in the selection processes used to appoint leaders. It’s shocking that there are so few checks and balances in place to ensure that the wrong people do not make it into positions of power. Surely, if someone is seeking to head up a country, community or company where they will exercise power and influence over the lives of many people, they should be subjected to some basic tests to determine if they are indeed suitable to be considered for the position in question. One would think …

To me, one of the most significant contributing factors to the poor state of leadership is not that we don’t have any good leaders or that leaders are ignorant and don’t know how to lead, but that leaders don’t actually DO what they’ve been taught to do.

Please don’t miss the significance of this. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with the content of leadership programmes across the globe. I do, however, think that they could possibly be delivered in more effective ways that ensure that those who complete the programmes go back to the workplace and consciously apply what they have learnt.

Moving closer to home, if you’re a leader or a manager, are you actually doing what you should be doing in your role as a leader or manager? If you’re a leader, are you creating the right environment for your team to perform at their best? Are you nurturing a non-judgemental culture that sets your people free to innovate? Are you promoting a high performance environment where people understand what they have to do, have what they need to get the job done and then get acknowledged and/or rewarded for their achievements?

If you’re a manager, are you getting the job done? That means you must do what needs to be done or ensure that others do what needs to be done. Are you agreeing on clear outcomes, service levels and deadlines so your staff know exactly what they must do, how they must do it and by when they must do it – and then do it?

Leadership and management are not so much about talking – anybody can talk a big game. It’s about doing. You know those people who talk, talk, talk but never actually do anything. Don’t be one of them – lead by example!

Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches business leaders and managers of all generations how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter”.

Read Previous

3 steps to turning disengaged employees into engaged employees

Read Next

Do you want to increase your influence as a leader?