Leadership development is an on-going process that starts well before a person becomes a supervisor or manager. People are always watching their leaders and when they become leaders themselves, they tend to emulate the behaviors they saw. So, as a leader, you’re always training new leaders. Every day.
It seems like auto manufacturers are in competition to see who can generate the greatest public outcry. Until recently the issues tended to be mistakes. It’s the apparent efforts to cover them up that caused public scorn. People will forgive mistakes, but it takes longer when leaders try to cover up those mistakes. Volkswagen has taken the competition to a whole new level by intentionally committing a fraudulent act. The CEO has admitted the fraud and stepped down, but I think it will be a long time before Volkswagen can recover from its intentional transgressions.
Some companies consider leadership development programs an expense. In fact, leadership development is an investment – an investment with a short amortization period. Think about the cost of low productivity, unrestrained conflict, and high turnover. They are all problems that stem from unskilled leadership. Recent statistics from the Department of Labor indicate that employee tenure may be as low as 2.5 years. That’s a real expense that’s costing companies a lot of money.
Do you have a peer group? I’ve always been fortunate to have a small group of people who were in the same type of job or responsibility level. We traded ideas, discussed problems, and benefited from each other’s experience. These groups helped make us all better leaders by taking advantage of a much larger pool of knowledge and experience.
Don’t be afraid to talk about leadership. In fact, you should make an effort to discuss your own leadership techniques with your peers. More importantly, discuss your thoughts and beliefs with those leaders who report to you. I have received immeasurable benefit from bosses who took the time to explain what they were thinking and why they did what they did.
Some of the best leaders I’ve known were very demanding. They expected the best of their people and accepted nothing less. That doesn’t mean they were unkind, or cruel. They simply wanted the very best from their teams and were not satisfied until they got it. That’s probably why they were also the most successful leaders I’ve known and why their teams seemed to produce more great leaders.
Admit your mistakes, even publically if necessary. Never make excuses for your mistakes or failures, but don’t hesitate to evaluate what went wrong. The best way to avoid repeating a mistake is to understand why it happened. Use your team’s expertise to find the cause and develop a solution. A leader who admits they’re wrong and accepts the advice of the team will be a more effective leader.
What are your thoughts on leadership development?