Back to the Basics
By Bruce Tulgan
“Leadership development” may sound better, but our research shows that what’s missing in the repertoires of 9 out of 10 leaders is consistent practice of the old-fashioned basics of management. There is so much work to be done by training professionals:
- Bad news: Nobody can transfer to someone else the ability to have vision, integrity, energy, intelligence, passion, charisma, or infectious enthusiasm—those seemingly magic intangibles that inspire and motivate others. Some rare people have these natural “leadership” abilities, but most people don’t. Good news: One need not be a natural leader to get good at leadership.
- More good news: Anyone can learn mission focus, ethical conduct, organization and discipline, critical thinking, strategic planning, persuasive messaging, acute listening, clear verbal and written communication, defining expectations, monitoring and measuring performance, documentation, trouble-shooting, and course correction…not to mention human capital management best practices.
- Like clockwork, the most effective leaders are people—natural or not—who learn proven techniques, practice those techniques diligently until they become skills, and continue practicing them until they become habits.
- Every leader needs to learn and practice the basics. But the most effective approach is to customize your development approach to every leader based on individual needs assessments. Especially when it comes to high-priority leaders, it is worth investing in a thorough 360-degree review. That also sets the table for engaging the leader’s direct reports in supporting his or her growth on an ongoing basis.
- Here’s another huge opportunity hiding in plain sight: When organizations invest in “followership training” for everyone, it makes leadership much easier. That’s one of the secrets to creating a culture of strong leadership. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who has ever served in the United States Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, or Coast Guard.