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There are a lot of people out there who say a lot of ridiculous and stupid things about leaders and leadership. Like leaders are born, not made. Leadership can’t be taught. Where are they getting this crap?
I worked across multiple industries and multiple fields/disciplines. I never saw that where people were born as leaders. They might have had the basic foundation but they never excelled as a leader. I’ve seen that. The good leaders I’ve worked with and the great leaders I’ve helped develop, come from different areas like sales accounting, programming, and even medicine. They all took training. They all received coaching. They all improved themselves to be great leaders. Leaders can’t be made. Leaders can’t be taught. That’s not true at all.
Have you ever done a quick rundown comparison of leadership training and management training? Leadership training looks a lot like management training. Management training looks a lot like leadership training. There’s overlap between the two. There should be overlap but the thing is that they always look so similar. Managers and management, those are roles and responsibilities. Leaders and leadership, those involve behaviors. Just because you have the responsibilities of a leader doesn’t mean you’re showing and demonstrating the behaviors of a leader.
Just because managers are different from leaders doesn’t mean leaders shouldn’t have management skills. You should always include management skills within your leadership training. The thing is that you need to have a clear separation between what’s considered management and what’s considered leadership. Good managers support systems using people. Good leaders support people to help them navigate those systems. This is a contradiction and you’re going to have to address the contradiction within the training.
How can a leader as a manager have people support the culture?
How can a manager as a leader support people to navigate that culture?
When developing your leaders, especially through training, your leaders need to adopt specific behaviors. Here are the top five leader behaviors you should focus on.
5 — Executing
Your leaders need to adopt a strong sense of urgency, that things are time-sensitive. The just-do-it attitude, willing to execute. The training must instill in your leaders to fight tooth and nail using all the resources at hand and be decisive when doing so. Not only are your leaders responsible, who they must be willing to take ownership and be accountable. And believe, I mean really believe that their ass is on the line if they fail. But you can’t just let the leaders go off all scattershot. You need to prepare the leaders on how to plan, especially on how to construct an A to Z plan.
This is a plan that provides a clear pathway to success for the leader. This plan includes other things too, especially how to navigate the systems within your company. Systems such as policies, processes, culture, and even power bases.
You don’t want your leaders to become a political target when they’re doing what needs to be done. Some very good supplemental training to help develop this strong sense of urgency, this executing behavior, is taking project management training. Especially around Agile practices and scrum. Another good ingredient is using sales training where sales training focuses on how salespeople can be successful and be high performing according to what they do daily.
4 — Conceptualizing
This is where leaders adopt the behavior of just taking time out of their day and maybe several times out of their day just to consider what their endgame is, what their vision is, and what that vision and success would look like. Especially in terms of the company’s objectives. Maybe objectives around finance, customers, internal processes, learning and growth opportunities, employee improvement, and human performance. Things like that. The problem with adopting the conceptualizing behavior is that it contradicts the executing behavior. Executing means do-it-now, sense-of-urgency. Yet, conceptualizing means to slow down bucko and reflect on how you are going to change. What do you need to do to improve yourself? How do you fit within the A to Z plan?
The best supplemental training I’ve seen for adopting the conceptualizing behavior is having your leaders learn about MBA-related concepts. Especially the vocabulary, and how to do proper business strategy. Learning about program and portfolio management helps a great deal. Leaders need to think in terms of the business and business outcomes and figure out how they fit within it.
3 — Advising
Your leaders need to adopt the behavior of mentoring those around them to become better leaders. Leaders have limited capacity, they have limited time so every interaction a leader makes with a person has to count. You need to train your leaders on how to tap into the motivations of others and tie those motivations to the big picture. How those people can navigate through the systems of the organization. Then you have your leaders feel comfortable to release the Kraken. Where they feel comfortable empowering the people they groomed as leaders, giving them specific rules so they don’t railroad or burn bridges. Especially political bridges.
The best training I’ve seen for developing the advising behavior is training on how to be an executive coach. Other tools help develop this behavior too. Things involving visual diagrams. A visual model of the power base. A visual model of how politics work within an organization. Or even how budgets are decided and allocated.
2 — Partnering
Your leaders must adopt the behavior of being respectful to other people. No power plays. No taking over the conversation. Not telling people what to do. Not acting like Donald Trump during a negotiation. Your leaders must believe it’s all for one and one for all. Your leaders must be able to articulate the common vision that everyone holds within that room and then talk about their positions on how they fit within that common vision. Then your leaders must be able to guide the conversation to the other people in the room so that they feel comfortable and explain how they can contribute and where they can commit to. Your leaders should ask questions and focus on listening and focusing on observing the dynamics in the room.The best training I’ve seen that helps develop this partnering behavior is taking customer service training.
1 — Sharing
Leaders must feel comfortable sharing themselves, their genuine selves. Leaders don’t tell you they’re leaders. Leaders show that they’re leaders. They have a presence to them, a gravitas. Leaders aren’t extroverts. If you’re an extrovert, slow down and don’t talk so much. If you’re an introvert, talk more frequently. But in either case, be positive. Because leaders are positive. They demonstrate that they’re caring. They demonstrate that they’re trustworthy. They demonstrate in a way that deserves and merits respect. Leaders are genuine. They don’t fake it.
Here’s the thing. People don’t like someone who’s positive all the time. They don’t like someone who’s smiling all the time. It’s like you see in those slasher movies. Where you see someone smiling and you know that they have that hand ax behind them, hidden behind their back.
When bad things happen, when things don’t go the right way within a company, leaders must feel comfortable showing their emotions, their genuine emotions. If they’re mad they should show that they’re mad. They should be able to articulate it. But at the same time articulate that they’re going to take action to address that emotion, to address that frustration. The thing is when leaders talk, they talk with one-syllable words. They do this because one-syllable words instill a strong sense of urgency in doing what needs to be done. Leaders must commit to actions. They must be willing to take one for the team. To take the bullet. To fall on their sword. They have to show everyone that they’re doing this. Leaders have to remind everyone that this is what a leader is.
The best kind of training I’ve seen for developing the behavior of sharing of oneself, of one’s genuine self, is how to tell a good story. Storytelling. Also how to act. How to be an actor, how to do improv, things like that where you can develop your presence, you can develop your gravitas, where you can feel comfortable showing your genuine self.
Leaders are rarely born. They’re usually made. The only difference between you and a leader that you put up on a pedestal is that they chose to be a leader before you did. That they did the work that you have yet to do. If you put in the work, adopt the behaviors, and become the person you need to be, you will become a leader. So don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t be a leader. The key to being a great leader is that you improve yourself so that you improve the company. That you have a clear path to success, an A to Z plan. So start today and start small. And don’t stop. Repeat daily those small things until they’re second nature. Once they’re second nature, you do a little bit more. That’s what it takes to be a great leader.
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