The Leadership Behaviours That Organizations Need
Employers around the world spend billions every year investing in the development of their leadership teams, so why is leadership confidence still so low?
You could call it the $360-billion question.
According to TrainingIndustry.com, each year, employers throughout the world spend approximately $360 billion US on leadership development. To put that number into perspective, it’s more than the valuation assigned to iconic companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook. In other words, it’s huge.
Why then, you may ask, are we not producing better leaders with better overall behaviours?
Regardless of the source, most surveys and studies have found that investment in better leadership behaviours is simply not producing the desired results.
A global survey of more than 1,800 HR professionals by Dr. Vince Molinaro, author of the New York Times best-selling book The Leadership Contract, showed that while 93 per cent of organizations believe that a strong leadership culture is essential, only 33 per cent were confident that they had the leaders they needed to succeed.
“Given the size of the spend, the confidence that organizations have in their leaders is extremely low,” said Molinaro, whose new book, Accountable Leaders, has just been published. “It’s a pretty clear indication that they must devote a lot more attention to building stronger leadership cultures and re-think exactly what kinds of leaders they want.”
Which Leadership Behaviours Do My Leaders Need?
This is a subject of great debate and while there is no consensus, there is extensive overlap found in some of the world’s most successful companies.
For example, after years of surveying its managers through Project Oxygen, Google focuses its leadership development on six key traits that are applicable to just about any organization:
- Mindset and Values: Google asks its leaders to assume a “growth mindset” where leaders are eager to learn and try new things.
- Emotional Intelligence: Many subject matter experts believe that EI is a key to better overall leadership performance. EI describes traits such as empathy, compassion and honesty.
- Management Sharing: Google asks its managers and supervisors to share challenges and frustrations with each other
- Coaching: Google believes leaders must be able to serve as a coach to their employees, giving timely feedback, tailoring their approaches to the individual and practising empathetic “active” listening.
- Feedback: Almost all leadership development sources will include something on effective communication. Google stresses the need for managers to avoid bias when providing feedback and balancing positive and negative comments.
- Decision Making: Rather than relying on chance, Google structures a process for its leaders to reach key decisions that clarifies the problem under consideration and the process of decision making.
How Can I Embed the Right Leadership Behaviours?
This is also an area of great debate. However, many leading-edge authorities certainly believe that any leadership development is doomed to fail unless is properly aligned with organizational values and culture.
Too often, leaders are introduced to progressive behaviours and strategies in training seminars and programs – both in-person and online – that provide a glimpse into leadership behaviours that are deeply connected to organizational success. However, after the exhilaration of the training is over, leaders return to organizations that do not embrace those same behaviours and principles.
Solutions to this and other flaws in the leadership development process vary but – once again – there are some points of consensus on practical steps.
Deliver LD throughout all levels of the organization. There is little chance that a single program will change organizational culture if it is applied to just one strata of the leaders. From front-line managers to the C-Suite, all leaders have to be on the same leadership culture page.
Leaders must be able to share their successes and failures. Google calls it Management Sharing but the principle of allowing leaders to learn from one another is a key to integrating improved leadership behaviours organization wide.
Seek out toxic leaders and either correct their behaviour or show them the door. In every organization, there are leaders who believe that abuse, belittlement and fear are legitimate leadership tools. Tolerating toxic leaders not only erodes engagement, it undermines the credibility of all leaders.
The challenge of embedding new and improved leadership behaviours is not a simple or short-term endeavour. However, a long-term methodical approach can ensure that any investment in leadership development delivers real change.