Posts Tagged ‘leadership development’

My last blog post included a table of leadership competencies (Leadership Development Models) from Zenger Folkman; 2013 Executive Coaching Survey; Departments of the Army, Air Force, and Navy; and federal Senior Executive Service. It was my attempt to determine the commonality in competencies. There is nothing immutable with this arrangement of competencies; these were my choices on that day. Looking at it today, I might rearrange some of the competencies.

The table indicates considerable agreement on leadership competencies and I have spent the last several days working to integrate these leadership competencies.

I first decided to eliminate some competencies.  The first quick three eliminations are:

  • Integrity and honesty – This is a character trait rather than a competency. It doesn’t mean that I don’t expect a leader to have integrity and be honest; of course, I do. I expect a leader to do everything with integrity and honesty.
  • Conflict management/resolution – This is a skill that may be needed in building and maintaining relationships, or in collaboration and teamwork. I think it’s more important to focus on the positive outcome; that is, building and maintaining relationships.
  • Self development, preparing self, assesses self, continual learning – While I expect a leader to be a continual learner, I think that it is not compelling enough to be included among the core competencies of a successful leader. Can a “lack of competence” in self development or continual learning adversely impact a leader?

I then took a look at grouping competencies into clusters. I decided on the four core competency clusters:

  1. Working with others
  2. Delivering results
  3. Organization stewardship
  4. Technical expertise

Within each cluster, I’ve selected core competencies and provide example behaviors.

Working with others

1.  Communicates persuasively and confidently

  • Speaks and writes clearly
  • Articulate spokesperson for the organization
  • Negotiates effectively

2.  Builds and manages relationships

  • Develops professional relationships
  • Fosters and environment of trust, integrity, honesty, and respect
  • Resolves conflicts

3.  Develops others and teams

  • Coaches and mentors
  • Facilitates collaboration
  • Promotes teamwork
  • Promotes training and education

Delivering results

4.  Problem solving

  • Uses appropriate analytical tools
  • Uses appropriate problem solving techniques
  • Encourages creativity and innovation
  • Makes sound decisions
  • Monitors problem resolution

5.  Planning and organizing

  • Aligns policies and operational plans with strategic plan
  • Aligns organization resources with plans and policies

6.  Inspires and motivates others to high performance

  • Encourages and supports high individual performance
  • Encourages and supports high team performance

Organization stewardship

7.  Strategic thinking

  • Translates organization’s vision and mission into strategic initiatives
  • Aligns goals and objectives with strategic plan

8.  Builds coalitions

  • Promotes the organization
  • Acts as credible and convincing spokesperson
  • Develops and manages partnerships

9.  Manages resources

  • Manages financial resources
  • Manages human resources
  • Monitors resource allocation and usage

10.  Manages organizational performance

  • Ensures execution of strategic plan
  • Ensures delivery of organization’s mission
  • Champions continuous improvement

Technical expertise

Technical competencies are unique to the leadership position. For example, an executive director of a very small nonprofit may need to knowledge of fund development, budgeting, accounting, and the nonprofit’s operational area. An executive director of a nationwide nonprofit may need a broad operational knowledge.



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fingerprintBefore embarking on a framework for leadership development, I suggest three assumptions.

1.  Each leadership position is different.  For example,

  • An executive director for a small, local not-for-profit with a paid staff of three requires leadership, management and supervisory skills, and perhaps some technical knowledge such as fund development.
  • A chief executive officer of a medium manufacturing operation requires leadership and management skills, with perhaps limited supervisory skills and technical knowledges.

2.  Each employee brings different knowledges, skills, strengths, and weaknesses to the leadership position.


3.  Individuals vary in learning styles.

A critical element that learned as an employee in human resources, a trainer, and a senior military officer is that the position or job is a keystone. That is, the position’s duties:

  • Are linked to other positions in the organization and mission requirements
  • Provide the basis for determining what knowledges and skills are expected for the employee to bring to the job and what can be learned after employment
  • Determine training and development requirements
  • Drive the outcomes by which performance is assessed

Therefore, a leadership development plan is unique to each leadership position. However, there are core leadership and management competencies that can serve as a boilerplate, template, or menu for tailoring to the position requirements. There have been opinions expressed that competency-based leadership development is flawed. What would we develop in a leader if not the competencies required to perform duties of the positions? What knowledge does the position require? What skills does the position require?


After determining the core competencies of the specific leadership position, the individual leadership development plan would be tailored based on the knowledge and skills that the incumbent brings to the job. For example, if the incumbent has had successful experience in dealing with conflict, there should not be any need for training or development in conflict resolution.

After selecting the competencies that the incumbent leader should develop, the next step is to determine the training or development options for each competency. Classroom training and seminars aren’t the only options. In some cases, seminars are too expensive or time consuming; for example, for a small, local nonprofit executive director. The core competency training plan should offer development options for each option; for example, coaching, seminar, webinar, reading assignments.

Finally, the individual leadership development plan should include an evaluation component. There should be periodic evaluation of progress and effectiveness of development activities. It is far too common that training and development are assumed to make a difference; that is, improve performance.

The next blog post will cover leadership core competencies.

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Officer Candidate SchoolIn my last blog post, Leadership and Management, the Balance, I posed the question: what should leadership programs address? While most literature focuses on interpersonal or social skills of leaders, being a leader also requires the exercise of managerial skills. The last question I posed was, how can we develop both leadership and managerial skills?

Before embarking into the content and structure of leadership development, let’s look at what people say is wrong with leadership development.

Most of the articles begin with a basis that leadership development is big business.

  • Leadership development approached $50 billion in 2000
  • More than 20,000 books and thousands of articles have been written about leadership
  • Publishers, universities, consultants jockey to be ‘go-to’ partners and gurus
  • U.S. business spent more than $170 billion on leadership development

Yes, leadership development is big business. And yes, we have leadership failures. Some attribute the leadership failures directly to failure of leadership development programs. However, I think that’s an unwarranted leap. Individual failures in leadership have many sources: poor assessment of  leadership potential, lack of evaluating candidates during leadership training and development, lack of performance assessment and corrective action of leaders.

Since leadership development is such a big business, it’s easy to find many views on the problems, flaws, and failures of leadership development. Some of the flaws cited are:

  • Leadership development is controlled by one faction of the organization; e.g. executive management or the human resources department. [1]
  • Leadership development is based on the leadership style du jour. [1]
  • Leadership development metrics measure the wrong things. [1]
  • Most initiatives focus on competencies, skill development and techniques, which in some ways is like rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.” [2]
  • Leadership development using a competency-based model.

It is not what a person knows so much as it is how they’re able to use said knowledge to inspire and create brilliance in others that really matters.

One of the problems is competency is predictable and easy to measure, and corporations like predictable and easy. However just because something is easy to measure doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to measure, and certainly not when measured in a vacuum. [3]

  •  “… training is indeed the #1 reason leadership development fails. While training is often accepted as productive, it rarely is. The terms training and development have somehow become synonymous when they are clearly not.

My problem with training is it presumes the need for indoctrination on systems, processes and techniques. Moreover, training assumes that said systems, processes and techniques are the right way to do things. When a trainer refers to something as “best practices” you can with great certitude rest assured that’s not the case. Training focuses on best practices, while development focuses on next practices. Training is often a rote, one directional, one dimensional, one size fits all, authoritarian process that imposes static, outdated information on people. The majority of training takes place within a monologue (lecture/presentation) rather than a dialog. Perhaps worst of all, training usually occurs within a vacuum driven by past experience, not by future needs. [4]

How should a leadership development program be structured and what should it contain? The next blog post will look at a framework.



1. Douglas A. Ready and Jay A. Conger, Why Leadership Development Efforts Fail, MITSloan Management Review, Spring 2003

2. Ray Williams; Why leadership development fails to produce good leaders; Financial Post; November 3, 2013

3. Mike Myatt; The Most Common Leadership Model – And Why It’s Broken; Forbes; March 28, 2013

4. Mike Myatt; The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails; Forbes; December 19, 2013

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teeter totter There are as many ideas about leadership development as there are leaders, managers, supervisors, boards of directors, consultants, business schools, and employees.

What should leadership programs address? Web searches for articles about leadership skills, tend to result in sites that predominantly address interpersonal or social skills.  However, leaders who do not manage are likely to have failures; for example, President Obama’s failure to manage implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes in What Inexperienced Leaders Get Wrong  (HBR Blog Network, November 21, 2013),

Much has been made of the distinction between leadership and management. Too many managers, not enough leaders, the critics say. …But my work with numerous top executives shows that this is a false choice. Great leaders also have managerial inclinations. They are practical as well as visionary. They care about efficiency. They might not be the ones to roll up their sleeves for the tasks of execution, but they know what to ask of those who do. These abilities grow with experience.

The question might also be asked as, should leaders focus on results or on people?  The answer is yes. Matthew Lieberman answers this question in Should Leaders Focus on Results, or on People?  (HBR Blog Network, December 27, 2013).

A lot of ink has been spilled on peopleʼs opinions of what makes for a great leader. As a scientist, I like to turn to the data. In 2009, James Zenger published a fascinating survey of 60,000 employees to identify how different characteristics of a leader combine to affect employee perceptions of whether the boss is a “great” leader or not. Two of the characteristics that Zenger examined were results focus and social skills. Results focus combines strong analytical skills with an intense motivation to move forward and solve problems. But if a leader was seen as being very strong on results focus, the chance of that leader being seen as a great leader was only 14%. Social skills combine attributes like communication and empathy. If a leader was strong on social skills, he or she was seen as a great leader even less of the time — a paltry 12%.

However, for leaders who were strong in both results focus and in social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a great leader skyrocketed to 72%.

On the other hand, CEOs and boards of directors have a different view of the skills in which they need coaching as shown in a survey of over 200 CEOs, boards of directors, and senior executives conducted in 2013 by the Stanford Center for Leadership Development and Research and The Miles Group.  (Research: What CEOs Really Want from Coaching, HBR Blog Network, August 15, 2013)

The Stanford/Miles survey questions emphasized social skills with respect to the questions posed. The following table depicts the top six skills that CEOs and boards believed needed development with rank order and the percentage of positive response. [http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/cldr/research/surveys/coaching.html]


Based on my personal experience in leadership positions, I believe that leaders must practice management skills as well.  If a leader does not manage the execution of his/her vision, is that leadership?

Linda Hill and Kent Lineback stated the need for both leadership and managerial skills clearly and convincingly in the HBR article, “I’m a leader, not a manager!” (HBR Blog Network, December 14, 2011)

Most writers about leadership then and now explicitly note the continuing importance of management. Success still depends on execution, controls and boundaries, systems, processes, and continuity. Without all that, leadership only produces dreams. Nonetheless, being a leader has taken on a shiny, romantic aura these days while management has been given an undertone of grubby practicality. Leaders are superior beings who inspire the rest of us to greatness while managers are dull business functionaries obsessed with budgets, schedules, policies, and procedures.

Both leadership and management are crucial, and it doesnʼt help those responsible for the work of others to romanticize one and devalue the other. To survive and succeed, all groups and businesses must simultaneously change in some ways and remain the same in others. They must execute and innovate, stay the course and foster change. Yes, the guidance, group skills, and mindsets required for serious change and innovation differ from those needed for continuity and steady execution. But that only means those in charge must be able to act as both change agent and steward of continuity, manager and leader, as the situation requires. The challenge is to discern when one versus the other is needed. To idealize leadership and demean management only makes that challenge even harder.

How can we develop both leadership and managerial skills?  How can develop the ability to discern when to apply management or leadership?

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In two recent postings on this blog on micromanagement, I pointed out that a micromanager either does not delegate or delegates ineffectively, which illustrate the micromanager’s fear of losing control of the process and outcome.  These prior posts also described the problems that micromanagement create in the organization, not only to the employees and micromanager.

Delegation is perhaps the hardest skill for a new supervisor and manager to learn. However, it is one of the most important competencies of successful supervision and management.  The sign of successful leadership is when the team can function effectively without the leader’s presence.  Delegation is one of the tools to achieve successful leadership and successful teams.

In Why Aren’t You Delegating?, Amy Gallo in an HBR Blog Network article notes that delegation is one of the most underutilized management skills.  She cites Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business,

Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off.

Gallo describes the warning signs of nondelegation:

  • Working long hours
  • Feeling indispensable
  • Feeling that your team doesn’t take ownership and you’re the only one who cares

Gallo proposes possible reasons for a manager’s reluctance to delegate:

  • You’re a perfectionist
  • You think it’s easier to do everything yourself
  • You think your work is better than everyone else’s
  • Passing work detracts from your importance
  • Lack of self-confidence and not wanting to be upstaged

How do you begin to add delegation to your management style?  Gallo suggests,

  • “Delegation shouldn’t be yet another task.  Make it part of your process for creating staff development plans.”
  • “Give your direct reports permission to call you out when you haven’t delegated something you should.”

Gallo clearly points out that “[a]fter you delegate, your job as a manager is to observe and support your direct reports, not dictate what they do.”

Finally, Gallo provides six principles to remember, three Do’s and three Don’ts, as well as two case studies.

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Reverse Leadership?  What is that?  Is it like hitting the reverse button on the DVD player?  I’m sometimes fascinated by the terms that are used to gather attention.  I frankly don’t find the term Reverse Leadership inspiring, but it did get my attention to read the article,   Find the Reverse Leaders in Your Midst by Scott Edinger on the HBR blog.  Edinger states,

You’ve likely seen reverse leadership in action. It happens when someone not in a formal leadership role demonstrates great leadership ability…

I personally think that leadership can emerge any time, any where.  And that’s not a bad thing.  There’s no law of leadership that requires the formal leader to dominate that role at all times.  And I ask, what’s the difference between reverse leadership and shared leadership, with the definition of shared leadership being (Sharing Leadership to Maximize Talent, by Marshall Goldsmith, HBR Blog, March 26, 2010)

Shared leadership involves maximizing all of the human resources in an organization by empowering individuals and giving them an opportunity to take leadership positions in their areas of expertise.

With respect to reverse leadership, Edinger suggests that the characteristics of a reverse leader are:

  1. strong interpersonal skills born of self-awareness
  2. focus more on results than on process
  3. high degrees of integrity
  4. deep professional expertise in at least one discipline vital to the organization
  5. unswerving customer focus

But organizations that can recognize them, cultivate them, and learn from their example will be a step ahead of those competitors that don’t and instead squander the services of the unrecognized talent in their midst.

With respect to sharing leadership and maximizing talent, Goldsmith suggests:

  • Define the limits of decision-making power.
  • Cultivate a climate in which people feel free to take initiative on assignments.
  • Give qualified people discretion and autonomy over their tasks and resources and encourage them to use these tools.
  • Don’t second guess the decisions of those you have empowered to do so.
  • Consider yourself a resource rather than the manager.
  • Set appropriate follow-up meetings to review progress and take corrective action if necessary.

If you do delegate more to people who are closer to the customer and allow them to take on challenging responsibilities, you will find that you have more time. You will spend less time directing their projects and you may even develop a sense of accomplishment from the achievements of your people rather than from your own direct efforts. Even better, your employees may feel they are more like partners and become more engaged ultimately paving the road for greater success for the organization, the team, and themselves.

Perhaps I’m becoming more cynical as I age, but it seems to me that reverse leadership is a repackaging of shared leadership.  I don’t disagree with either article, but I find the article on shared leadership more compelling.

Do you see a difference between reverse leadership and shared leadership?

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Staying on the topic of leadership and influencing others, do you need charisma to be an effective leader?

My hardcover dictionary defines charisma as “A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm.”  Does fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm produce results?  Devotion and enthusiasm by themselves don’t produce results, but perhaps understanding how to develop charisma and using it appropriately to influence others to action might lead to results.

I saw an article on the Fast Company site, Cultivating Charisma:  How Personal Magnetism Can Help (Or Hurt) You At Work.  “Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, talks with Fast Company about why charisma is so critical to business and how special Jedi mind tricks can help get you there.”

In this article we learn that:

  • Charisma is a learned social skill.
  • There isn’t just one type of charisma, “There’s only the right form of charisma for the particular situation.”
  • There are at least four forms of charisma.
  • Introversion is an asset for several of the forms of charisma.
  • “Charisma makes people want to trust you and follow you.”
  • “It’s charisma that helps determine which ideas get adopted and how effectively your projects are implemented.”

In her book, Cabane discusses body language and its impact on charisma.  She indicates that while you can’t consciously control body language, you can learn to control your subconscious.  “The secret is to get you into the right charismatic mind to teach you to get a charismatic brain so you then exhibit the right charismatic body language so that then you are charismatic.”

Returning back to the dictionary definition of charisma, the Cabane would say that it is not a rare personal quality and that it’s not limited to leaders.  If it’s a skill, you can learn it.

It does sound a bit like magic or sleight of hand, learning to turn certain “personality traits” off or on.  However, like the recent articles on influencing style, I think it’s worthwhile for a leader to be aware of different forms of charisma and the appropriate application of each in different situations.

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