We should define how we want people to lead in addition to why we want people to lead that way in alignment with our organization’s mission and values.
By Jennifer Colosimo, EVP, CLO, COO, FranklinCovey
I admit to being a “Leadership junkie.” Give me a Jim Collins speech, a new Stephen R. Covey book, the latest HBR issue on leadership, and a Rosabeth Moss Kanter tweet over the new Modern Family episode, a Harry Potter re-read, and #fallonmono any day. Don’t get me wrong: I love Modern Family, Harry Potter, and Jimmy Fallon’s tweets. I just love “leadership” more.
So you would think it would be easier to get a definition of what “leadership” is. Stephen R. Covey says “leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.” Jim Collins defines levels of leadership, culminating with Level 5, which is when the leader “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will.”
I agree with both of these definitions as well as many others, including the definitions put forth by hundreds of other authors, numerous leadership competency models, and every President of the United States since the country was founded.
I have invested 20 years in developing and implementing assessments, training, and processes to support individuals and organizations in their quest to improve the behavior of individuals so their leadership drives better results for the organization. And to use one of Oprah’s sayings: What I know for sure is that leadership skills and behavior can be taught. What I don’t know is why there isn’t more focus on the why and the how of leadership development in our organizations, at least as much focus as we put on what.
So, yes, there are many things leaders do, and they can learn to do them better and when they actually do them better it seems logical that doing them better would impact the organization positively. But what is a leader and why are we trying to develop them?
A leader is someone who recognizes and can define a problem or opportunity and can influence others to help them address that opportunity. Period. Then we get to the crux of the matter: Does the leader lead in a way that builds trust, engages the whole person (body, mind, heart, and spirit), and drives results through the art of accountability? Does the leader lead themselves effectively in a spirit of humility while maintaining the paradoxical will required to impact an organization, the market, and society?
I would suggest it serves all of us in training functions to recognize that people can lead in very dysfunctional ways—through coercion, charisma, and formal power—and get results, at least in the short term. To improve the outcomes of our leadership development programs, we should define how we want them to lead in addition to why we want people to lead that way in alignment with our organization’s mission and values. And if we want long-term, sustainable, results—if we want to go for greatness-- invest as much time in the “why” and “how” as we do in the “what” in our training interventions.
Jennifer Colosimo is EVP, CLO, and COO of FranklinCovey, which transformational leadership in people and organizations around the globe through training, executive coaching, and principle-based programs. For more information, visit www.franklincovey.com/tc.