We live in an era where we have a talent gap in leadership capability. Whether it be political, corporate or in the sporting arena, there are great examples of the failure of leadership (none heroic). Today there feels like there are few examples of success. At no time in my past have I struggled to suggest current examples of individual or collective leadership yet now it seems more rare and further afield. (Do please share any in your comments below.)
Perhaps this is no surprise when we look at the drop in spending on leadership development; when we focus on how it is taught today and when we appear to judge talent based on academic achievement and position not competence.
I like to think that despite this pessimistic view, this is changing in the U.K and there is hope on the horizon.
Some western countries most notably Germany have always valued professionalism and expertise above all else.. Other countries value power or patronage whilst others seem to put style over substance. In the U.K we seem to value enthusiastic amateurism above all else. We love the ‘heroic failure’ and hate it if someone gets ‘too big for their boots’ Whilst at the same time, according to Hofstede, we value individualism and entrepreneurship. This may all explain Brexit whilst at the same time providing an excellent example of our leadership predicament.
In most arenas we currently find ourselves short on leadership and whether the example is football or finance we appear to be having to import talent from anywhere and everywhere we can find it. Why is this? Perhaps it is because we lack belief in ourselves as individuals and as a nation. In my experience, leadership is all about belief. Yes it is a skill and a process that can be learned, but it relies on the individual believing themselves capable of leadership. All too often we teach leadership as a dry academic subject heavy on theory and academic research light on emotional intelligence or real world experience.
Leadership is an evolutionary skill that is the culmination of self awareness and learning over time. Some skills can be taught but are only truly honed through hard won experience. Nothing quite prepares you for the big day in the CEO’s chair, for the starters gun at the Olympic final or for your first experience of combat. We never truly know how we will perform until you have had the experience. What we can do better is to prepare our minds. As anyone who has been in any of the situations above will tell you mindset and belief are the only thing that really counts. If we can help an individual see things differently they can and do feel different, think differently and behave differently.
We finished the Summer having had our most successful ever Olympic and Paralympic Games. We came second in the World behind superpowers with vastly bigger talent pools and resources. Our success was not due to luck or enthusiastic amateurism it was solely the result of belief, courage, hard work and pure professionalism. Our focus was on measurement, marginal gains, analysis of the smallest details and professionalism. Those leaders behind this fundamental turn around in fortunes and change in mindset were not home grown but imported. You may never have heard of Jürgen Grobler or Heiko Salzwedel but if you follow Rowing or cycling you will know these two authentic, courageous and professional leaders are behind much of our medal haul this century
If you feel training is an unnecessary cost and growing talent is not your job you probably won’t have read this far. If like me you continue to be as inspired by our Olympic and Paralympic athletes, and you are the person in your organization who thinks its time to radically change your approach to leadership development, audit your leadership bench strength or build the leadership your business needs going forward, then get in touch @Performance First Limited
Most training providers will give you a theory of leadership. Very few actually give you access to leadership. At Performance First, we insist on high mileage coaches. All our people have real life experience and been tested in some of the toughest environments. We want you to learn from our mistakes, to inspire you to be different, to connect you with your people and to help you transform the organisations you lead.