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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Leadership Development Requires the Involvement of Leaders

Recent research in the USA indicates that most senior executives are believed to spend less than 25 percent of their time on leadership development activities, even for positions typically associated with leadership development - (http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/story.jsp?storyId=213109302)

While it is clear that the quality of the time spent on leader development is far more important than the quantity of time, researchers found that the quantity of time does matter and that many organisational leaders are reporting that senior executives are simply not putting in the necessary time.

Specifically, about two-thirds (65 percent) of executives whose firms have a head of human resources, half (50 percent) of executives whose firms have a chief learning officer, and four in 10 (40 percent) of executives whose firms have a head of leader development, indicated that no more than 25 percent of those individuals' time was spent on leadership development.

This may be seen as a clear signal that leadership development is not a high priority, despite rhetoric to the contrary.

Separate global research (http://image.exct.net/lib/fefd1674706403/m/1/RM_Employee_Engagement_Jan_2010.pdf) shows that only 34% of employees identify themselves as fully engaged, while 50% identify themselves as completely unengaged with their organisation.

With this in mind, the good news is that senior executives do see leader development as being among the top five leadership challenges confronting their organisations, with only the issues of leading innovation and internal growth being seen as bigger challenges.

The Priorities of Leadership

“The more senior your management position is, the more important it is to connect the organisation or the project to the outside world,” said Alan Mulally, president and chief executive officer of Ford.

“How does this fit in with what we’re doing? What is the real goal, the real mission? And it makes you think about: What business are we in?”

The comments come from an interview for The New York Times, “Planes, Cars and Cathedrals,” published online on September 5, 2009. Throughout the interview, Mulally addressed the following questions:
  • How do senior leaders set organisational vision and values?
  • How do senior leaders deploy your organisation’s vision and values?
  • How do senior leaders’ personal actions reflect a commitment to the organisation’s values?
“I think the most important thing is coming to a shared view about what we’re trying to accomplish—whether you’re a nonprofit or a for-profit organisation,” said Mulally. “What are we? What is our real purpose?”

High-performing organisations focus through a shared vision. Creating such a vision requires leaders who will listen to employees and customers and find the common themes and interests that everyone can support. “The higher the calling, the higher the compelling vision that you can articulate,” Mulally said, “then the more it pulls everybody in.”

To make his point, he recounted one of his favourite stories. “This reporter stops by a construction site and he interviews three bricklayers. He asks the first bricklayer, ‘What are you doing?’ And he says, ‘Well, I’m making a living laying these bricks.’ The reporter says: ‘Oh, that’s great. That’s very noble.’

He asks the next bricklayer, ‘What are you doing?’ And he says, ‘Well, I am practicing the profession of bricklaying. I’m going to be the best bricklayer ever.’

And the reporter asks the third bricklayer, ‘What are you doing?’ And he says, ‘I’m developing a cathedral.’ There is technical excellence and professionalism, but we all want to contribute to making a cathedral.”

Mulally listed four things he has “to really come through on” as the leader of Ford, along with critical questions he must answer:

1.Connecting what Ford is doing to the outside world. “Where is the world going? Where is the technology going? Where are the customers going? Where is the competition going?”

2.Identifying the value proposition of the company. “What business are we in? What are we going to focus on?”

3.Balancing the near term with the longer term. “Do we have a plan that works in the near term and also creates value for the long term?

4.Focusing on the values and standards of the organisation. “What are the expected behaviours? How do we want to treat each other? How do we want to act?”

These and other critical questions are asked and answered as part of developing a Positive Leadership™ strategy. To learn more about the process of introducing Positive Leadership™ to your organisation, please contact: graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk