Everybody talks about wanting to have an environment that encourages good leadership, but defining what that is and how to create it can be challenging. What exactly makes a great leader, great? Many definitions of leadership recognize it as an art form; an innate ability to motivate a group of people toward a common goal. When thinking of great leaders it is hard not to picture people like Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Barack Obama, or Annie Easley. Perhaps, there is some innate characteristic shared between them, but there are also concrete skills they possess that can be carefully recreated through leadership development training.
Effective leadership sets the tone for performance, brand, compliance, and core values. Unfortunately, leadership development training is often skipped because it’s assumed that an employee generally knows what they’re doing when they reach a managerial level. However, the skills of an individual contributor that lead to promotion may not translate to leadership skills. Worse yet, bad leadership can affect employee performance and satisfaction. So, it’s important to invest in building better leaders to drive profits, productivity, and workplace accountability.
Skills vs. Characteristics
Skills are typically built from knowledge, practice, or aptitude. Arguably, people don’t start out with skills when they are born, but gradually build them through life experience. Individual personality characteristics, on the other hand, are more often seen as something a person comes by naturally. Characteristics are usually defined as a feature or quality that makes an individual who they are. But how are these measured? Psychological assessments like the MBTI can describe ideas or mind states. However, actions are what give life to characteristics in some sense – characteristics are most easily observed when applied to observable behaviors.
When looking at factors that make a good leader, some examples include problem-solving, critical thinking, delegation, time management, focus on results, seeking different perspectives, and an ability to support others. Notably, lists of leadership qualities often include both tangible behaviors and characteristics. Understanding the difference between the two will be critical as you create learning strategies to improve your corporate leadership training.
As a company, when it comes time to train for leadership skills, it is important to not focus on personality characteristics. Training leadership skills should never be about changing personalities, but rather fostering the ability to lead. And in order to accomplish that goal your corporate training strategy needs to be mindful about regular reinforcement and performance support.
Building Better Leaders
It takes a combination of well-developed skills and good base characteristics to form outstanding leaders within a company. When dreaming up what a “model leader” should be to your company it’s important to map out the skills you want them to have or develop along with the above-mentioned values. Abilities to communicate well, listen, and collaborate are just a few of the most sought after skills.
You will want to create a skills archetype that describes your model leader that fits the needs of your organization. Luckily, that information can be determined through careful needs analysis tactics. For example, assessments and interviews with the successful leaders in an organization will reveal any skills common between those leaders. That same archetype can influence hiring practices as well. Collaborate with the larger HR group to make sure interviewing and hiring practices look for the skills and characteristics that are best aligned with your archetype.
Align with Organizational Goals
Like most good intentions, sometimes leadership training can go awry. For instance, it’s almost always a recipe for disaster when leadership and organizational goals do not align. In the worst case, the skills developed in your leadership training initiative don’t address the right skills gaps and performance doesn’t improve. But leadership training that mirrors the company vision has direction and pushes employees to drive organizational goals. So, emphasize those goals as you craft a design strategy.