Some basic leadership development components to consider as you adjust your initiatives or start one from scratch.
By Matt Monge, director of Education and Training, Fort Campbell Federal Credit Union
Leadership development is one my favorite components of organizational development and culture. After all, as leaders go, so go organizations. Most in the broader business world would agree that leadership development is important, but there are a variety of approaches to leadership development out there. The point of this article won’t necessarily be to convince you that a particular approach is the best one; rather, my hope is that you’d consider some things as you build or revamp your leadership development programs.
Assuming for a moment that your leadership development program is geared toward your managers (I believe current managers should only be a part
of a leadership development initiative, but that’s another article for another day), I would pose this question: Is your management team actually a team
? I think organizations too often sit their managers in a room once a month with a facilitator who discusses some aspect of leadership with them, and that’s that. So the routine for the managers becomes this: They go to a meeting once a month, listen to someone talk about (insert your leadership competency of choice here), do a couple activities or engage in a couple discussions, then return to their “real” jobs until next month when they’ll go through the routine again.
But what if we changed how we thought about leadership development a little bit? What if, instead of simply plodding together through various characteristics of good leaders, we began viewing leadership development as more of a community-oriented or team-oriented developmental initiative? What if, instead of simply viewing leadership development as the development of individual leaders, we began viewing it as the development of a team of leaders? Think about it—we use the terms “management team” and “leadership team” all the time, yet how often do we see managers across an organization actually functioning like a team themselves rather than individual heads of other teams whose only actual bond is that the word “manager” is in their title somewhere?
Perhaps we should shift our mind-set. Maybe instead of viewing leadership development as strictly individual development, we should aim to develop a community of leaders that learns and grows together through coursework, discussion, and mutual coaching and accountability. That’s beginning to sound suspiciously like a well-functioning and cohesive team, isn’t it? Imagine the impact that sort of management team would have on your organization.
You might be saying to yourself, “That’s all well and good, but what in the world would that look like in reality?”
Let me emphasize here that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership development. These things are best adjusted to the specific needs of a group or organization. That said, here are some basic leadership development components you might consider including as you think about either adjusting your current leadership development initiatives or starting one from scratch:
If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with just a single component: classroom training. Classroom training certainly should be used, but only as part of a larger leadership development strategy.
You’ll want to find ways to have the participants engage in useful
discussions, whether they are in the classroom, on a blog, via social media, within the context of a case study, as part of a role-play exercise, or any combination of these things. It’s critical that these discussions not turn into a group of leaders simply going through the motions of a discussion. Provide provocative and engaging subjects and situations for them to discuss.
Mutual Coaching and Accountability
Vulnerability and humility are two essential qualities for a leader. Leaders have to learn to be open and honest about faults, and further, must learn to accept help and counsel from others. There’s much to be gained from having leaders discuss their struggles and weaknesses with each other and then subsequently hold each other accountable not only to improve themselves, but also to help others on the management team get better. This could be anything from specific situations that leaders are working through with their teams to leaders’ personality traits or communication styles. Further, you shouldn’t limit the discussion to just weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to have leaders discuss goals and aspirations, as well, with an eye toward holding each accountable for making progress toward achieving those things. You could almost think of it as performance coaching meets life coaching.
Where appropriate, have measurements in place to be sure the participants are absorbing the information you need them to absorb. After all, if they’re not absorbing it, you can be sure they won’t be plugging it in when they get back to their respective teams.
There are two components here:
The Cumulative Effect
Have your participants team up with another leader within the organization who is down the career path a little further than they are.
As your program gets going, what better way for leaders to continue to put into practice what they’re learning than to have them mentor someone outside the group who they perceive to have great leadership potential? Leaders always should be looking for ways to produce and invest in other potential leaders.
When you implement the above components, you’re doing more than simply building individual leaders across your organization. You’re building a team of leaders who are engaged with each other; they’re learning together, growing together, coaching each other, and holding each other accountable. A leadership team like that will prove to be an invaluable asset to any organization.
Matt Monge is the director of Education and Training at Fort Campbell Federal Credit Union, where his team creates and implements organizational culture and training initiatives for the credit union. He is also a consultant, writer, and presenter, and is earning his MA in Organizational Leadership at Gonzaga University. He can be contacted at email@example.com.