Dear Colleague, While getting ready to run a workshop on adaptive leadership, I came across a fascinating Human Capital Trends Report by Deloitte (http://bit.ly/LHRDeloitte100). One “trend” that particularly intrigued me: Debunking the...
The superman myth sounds awfully similar to what Deming once called the "myth of the universal manager". No such thing. I define leadership on different terms in Part 1 of my new book: Real Leadership! Are you Ready?...scheduled for e-Book release through Kindle Direct Publishing on April 30th. Leadership can be effective and ineffective. It can be right and wrong. Leaders, as a result, can be any combination at any time. While hiring the best counts for something (assuming you know what you are looking for), in spite of our best efforts, we're not always capable of right and effective leadership, so we shouldn't expect something that isn't intrinsically possible. Instead, we should promote a leadership (and create a subsequent culture) that places emphasis--not on always being right and effective, but--on engaging in the process of continually discovering areas of our leadership that need to be renewed and improved over time. To this end, in Part 2 of Real Leadership! Are You Ready?, I set forth a simple Leadership Enrichment LIFE-cycle that any aspiring leader can adopt. And I've found through years of experience with this model, that regular feedback from those who our leadership impacts on a daily basis and the wise counsel of key mentors and coaches can make a profound difference in our development leaders.
This brings me to the cookie cutter trap. In my book I talk about how, if I had waited for or relied on the companies I worked for to develop my leadership platform over the past 28 years, I'd still be waiting (at best) and found wanting (at worst). The former because the basic knowledge transferred during training never gets personally adopted and, if it does, the latter emerges because the organization's culture can't support the application. From my book:
"Borrowing from Dr. Oz, we are the best leadership-educated society in the history of business but we don't take that information and use it to motivate us to change our behavior."
The fact is, the first and most important context of personal application of new leadership information must be self-improvement. This is what helps avoid the cookie cutter trap. Every individual is different, so the application of the same information (i.e., theories that help us to understand why leaders behave the way they do, models that help us understand what leaders do, and styles that try to explain how leaders approach various situations) becomes incredibly unique. While the typical curriculum can be standardized for all participants, the application can and must be individualized. And unless the initial application is made in terms that reflect how the individual leader is actually impacting others (vs. the way they intended to impact them or the way the new information says they should), little of what was learned will ever be applied.
Leadership must be personalized before it can be publicized. This speaks to Deming's attestation of his System of Profound Knowledge:
"The first step is transformation of the individual. This transformation is discontinuous. It comes from [learning]....The individual, transformed, will perceive new meaning to his life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people. Once the individual understands..., he will apply its principles in every kind of relationship with other people. He will have a basis for judgment of his own decisions and for transformation of the organizations that he belongs to. The individual, once transformed, will: • Set an example • Be a good listener, but will not compromise • Continually teach other people • Help people to pull away from their current practice and beliefs and move into the new philosophy without a feeling of guilt about the past."
Lastly, I believe we need to help employees take advantage of the non-neutral learning environments available outside the typical CBT, ILT, or blending learning program for leadership development. More on that later...