Chief Investment Officer
BirdsEye Viewpersonal leadership
There is much discussion in our Forums about leadership. HR Directors ponder how to inculcate it and implement a leadership development process. Other groups grapple with the general malaise resulting from a lack of leadership among the ranks, which impacts a broad range of issues, from holding people accountable (a notable weak spot) to succession planning.
I get more opinions about leadership in our industry and elsewhere from the younger generation, my kids and their friends. While not statistically significant, the input is broad enough for me to make some generalizations. The “kids” (25-35 years old) often find leadership lacking in unexpected ways. They feel disengaged and uninformed. They can’t understand why their bosses act the way they do, and how decisions are made. They often develop a healthy disrespect for their superiors. In sum, they operate on four cylinders and not at full capacity not because they are lazy but because they don’t have sufficient confidence in their leaders to be effectively led.
This issue isn’t new. It has plagued our industry for many years. It is particularly acute now, when morale is low, prospects for many companies dim, and (appropriately) strategic focus is set aside in favor of survival.
As I have written before, these are good times for investment: in the franchise, and especially in our people. Leadership development, which is far too gushy a phrase for me, is clearly such an investment. Yet the tools available are often ineffective, and sometimes way too expensive. Most of the courses and training sessions I have come across are sorely lacking.
Recently I came across an interesting process that might be one apt solution to the leadership development quandary. What I like about this tool is that it does not teach people what to do and how to act. Instead, it asks deeply personal questions that compel the respondent to candidly explore their leadership style. In other words, the feedback in this process is entirely internal, and has nothing to do with management theories.
To be clear, I am all for the process of learning and understand the value of training. However, all too often leadership training does not entail internal retrospection, which is the first step to wisdom. Without it, external input might fall on deaf ears, or it may not be put to its best use. Even with it, too few of us can have a personality transplant once we see the light.
Here are the questions this process poses. As someone answers them, they discover more about themselves and their leadership style; they clarify how they best interact with subordinates, peers and superiors; and they prioritize what’s important to them and offer an explicit basis for interaction with all constituencies in the organization. Armed with this information, they are now more open to learning and style adjustment. In the end, though, candor is key.
Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to gain this important insight:
Even if you’re a very successful leader, and even if you require no development or have no opportunity to formally get leadership training, I believe answering the questions above with full candor is a productive development process. Just stand in front of the mirror, look yourself in the eye and ask these questions. The answers might surprise you!