Many organisations promote their best operatives and expect them to be good leaders. Some are; but many simply don’t know how to lead. In these cases, the company has just lost a good operative and gained a bad leader. Double whammy!
Perhaps the answer is to train new leaders in ‘leadership’.
Well, there’s nothing wrong with increasing awareness and discovering tools and techniques. However, learning about being a leader is not BEING a leader. Too much leadership development consists of a couple of days in a 3-star hotel room, after which people are assumed to be ‘trained’ leaders.
Again – nothing inherently wrong with learning, whatever form that takes. But a 2-day intensive training programme does not magically create leaders.
Leaders have to BE leaders. That may sound obvious, but the point is that they must behave like leaders every day. They must do the little things that may, in isolation, make little overall difference, but in the longer-term can transform organisations.
Consultant Simon Sinek compares leadership with going to the gym…
Go and work out for 40 minutes. Get home, stand in front of the mirror. There is no difference! So do it again the next day, and the next. Same disappointing result and, not only is there no six-pack – you actually hurt! It’s not working, it’s painful – so you are tempted to give up.
However, you know that to get a ‘ripped’ body, you need to work out consistently and regularly even though there are no discernible results after any given session. The result you desire will become evident only with consistency of application over time (and it will happen even if you have a few bad days and stuff a cake or three).
Leadership is exactly the same. Put in the effort every day. You become a leader by taking consistent action, and that consistency lays a clear path for others to follow. Little and often. Even if it doesn’t seem to be working; even if it’s painful; even if you have a couple of bad days.
There are no guarantees exactly when, but gradually, your consistent leadership behaviour will change something. Followers no longer obey you because you’re their boss, they engage because THEY want to. They decide to follow you. You are now a leader, and no-one knows exactly which day it happened.
Peter Drucker, 20th century educator, writer and early contributor to modern day business management practices summed up leadership rather concisely we think when he said “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”.