Developing your leadership

Kevin Kussman
  • Executing: These are the people that get things done. They make businesses work and turn ideas into reality.
  • Influencing: These people sell the team’s ideas internally and externally. They generate support and ensure the team is heard.
  • Relationship building: These are the people that can take a group of individuals and form them into a motivated, high performing team with a clear sense of identity and mission.
  • Strategic thinking: These people process the data, scan the environment and create the vision of where the team should be – drawing the team and its members into the future.

The surprising news is that even with the size of Gallup’s data base, they still haven’t found a leader yet that is strong in all four domains. Instead, what they found is that highly successful leaders can have any mix of these leadership strengths, but they are very aware of where their strengths lie and invest in continually developing those strengths, while surrounding themselves with people that have the strengths to round out the team and maximize overall leadership.

Leadership development

What are the implications of this to an organization looking to develop their leadership? First, the initial step for any size organization should be an assessment to understand where an organization’s leadership strengths are by level. There are a number of analytic tools that can help with this process, by providing a good leadership inventory. Partnering with an organization that understands these assessment tools and development options can lead to a more effective program with a clear vision of leadership for your organization.

The second step is to review the leadership strengths, mapping them to the organization’s needs, and creating a development plan to build specific strengths. It is important to focus on an integrated plan that is consistent – creating a common language and a common approach to leadership. It is extremely difficult to build momentum with a fragmented program; consistency enables better messaging and support for programs. Clear timelines, metrics and goals should be set for the program.

Third, it is important to recognize that building a strong leadership culture in an organization is a change management program, not simply a training program. Training, by itself, is not nearly as effective as it is when anchored by mentoring, coaching, visible executive support, peer follow-up or performance reviews.

The final step is to ensure that all the teams have a well-rounded leadership skill set. The best leaders do not have all four domains of leadership skills, but the best teams do. Where a skill set is missing, new talent may need to be brought in.

The complex, dynamic and demanding market place we work in places a heavy demand on our organization’s leadership. Few investments will have the return that can be realized by strengthening your organization’s leadership skills.

Kevin Kussman is also the associate vice president of corporate and continued education at Clark College. He can be reached at kkussman@clark.edu.

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