As we work to develop and expand our global network, we continually connect with amazing organizations and professionals. We are thrilled to have a guest post by our newest contributor, Marlene Chism. Make sure you have a quick read through her bio below!
There are as many ideas about leadership development as there are workshops, programs, and philosophies about leadership development. Even leadership development consultants and gurus argue about the definition of leadership, whether leadership is inborn or can be taught, what skills are needed to create a leadership development program, and whether leaders also need to be good followers.
Leadership development is as much about philosophy as it is anything else. If there was one blueprint there wouldn’t be the need for more dialogue about what it is, how to get it, and how to develop it and every company would agree on the same definition, skill sets and standards.
My philosophy is leadership development is an ongoing process which happens on the inside and on the outside. In other words, leadership development is not a onetime workshop with a CEU Credit when you’re done.
The external part of leadership development includes the physical and mental skills and capabilities needed to lead a group of individuals in a particular circumstance, industry, or business. The more competent an individual is the more respect she will get from the employees.
The internal part of leadership development is about transformation through building and developing character qualities. For example, the more someone follows through to do what he says he will do, the more trust he will gain among team members.
While the particular skills development may change depending on the function, the situation or the business, the character building portion of leadership is a principle, therefore, no matter what the skills needed to lead a team, the foundation of any leadership program is building character qualities. Here are four cornerstone qualities for transformational leadership development.
The more self-aware you are the better you are at reading other people. This is because there is something in the brain called mirror neurons. When you see someone’s facial expression, your neuron’s fire and you can almost “feel” what the other person feels. A good leader must be able to read other people, for example to use wisdom when delivering feedback, or to gauge someone’s understanding or emotional response to a difficult conversation. Those who have very little self-awareness, tend to go into denial, avoid difficult conversations, justify their abrasive behavior on outside circumstances and use manipulation instead of honesty. In fact, you can only be as honest as your level of self-awareness. To paraphrase author Gary Zukav, author of Seat of the Soul, “If you are not aware of your intention before an interaction, you will become aware of your intention afterwards.” The more aware you are, the more ability you have to respond instead of react, which leads to the next character quality; Responsibility.
The ability to respond instead of react reduces a lot of workplace drama. Responsibility is about self-management, and about owning the problem. In other words, as a leader, you are responsible and you have the backs of your employees. In my workshops I have a saying about responsibility: “Responsibility is the recognition of choice.” Since much of our programming happens before the age of eight, the things that trigger us, are really issues left over from childhood. A responsible person knows how to tap into self-awareness, and use critical thinking skills to access a situation. She takes ownership of problems instead of reverting to protective defense mechanisms such as blame, complaints or excuses. I offer leaders what I call “The Vow of Responsibility” to help employees eliminate unproductive behaviors such as blaming, justifying and other distractions.
Integrity is the alignment of your thoughts, words and actions. You can tell you aren’t acting from a place of integrity when what you say you are committed to does not align with your actions. As a leader you must be aware of your hidden intentions and competing agendas. For example, you may say that you are committed to teamwork, but you have one employee, Jane, who is in dire need of a crucial conversation with some straight talk. But, let’s say as a leader you hate conflict, and you certainly don’t want to rattle Jane, your star performer. This is what I call two competing agendas. On the one hand you want the team to work together, but this requires you to have a difficult conversation or perhaps a performance review. You would rather go to the island called “Keeping Jane happy” so you get off track and head in a 90 degree angle away from your original goal. In my book, Stop Workplace Drama I call this the integrity gap. Your people know when you are off course, but it is up to you to have the courage to course correct.
It’s not rocket science yet so many would-be leaders do not exhibit the trait of trustworthiness. I have identified at least 7 trustbusters that mash morale and one of those is inconsistency. In a nutshell this means that you do what you say you are going to do. Yep, that means you are predictable. Predictability makes people feel safe and the brain craves a certain amount of certainty.
You know what else makes people feel safe? When they can speak to you without you blowing up, or acting in erratic ways. So trustworthiness also means you must master your energy, specifically your emotions. (You can predictably blow up or have a temper tantrum but that’s not the kind of trust we are talking about here.) As you can see, we are now back to square one: self-awareness. All character qualities link together in amazing ways and they are universal and never changing.
You can build the specific leadership skill sets and processes as it relates to your specific industry, situation, job function, but in the end, if the principle is not thoroughly understood and adopted, you will experience drama in the form of poor customer service, turnover, absenteeism and other problems that indicate a lack of awareness, a lack of responsibility, integrity and trustworthiness.
Questions for Reflection
1. What might other people know about me that I don’t know about me?
2. Do I exhibit complaining, blaming, or making excuses in any area?
3. Is there any place in my work life where I have a hidden agenda or conflicting priorities?
4. Do people feel safe around me?
Marlene Chism is a speaker, author and founder of The Stop Your Drama Methodology, an eight-part empowerment process to increase clarity and improve productivity and personal effectiveness. She is a dynamic business and motivational speaker who has the unique ability to speak across the boundaries of many types of audiences: from the fortune 500 executives, to HR professionals to front line employees. Marlene has a master’s degree in HR Development from Webster University and is the author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011). Learn more at www.marlenechism.com or at www.stopworkplacedrama.com