Up the Down Escalator

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

Leadership development – why have we got it so wrong?

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership recently.  Everywhere I turn people want to talk about leadership – at work, in conferences, LinkedIn groups, Twitter, in sport.

Last week I facilitated a workshop at the NZAGE Summit on the subject of developing future leaders from our graduate population. The thing that struck me as I researched the session was the dearth of innovative, imaginative and forward thinking in this area.  Certainly in New Zealand, we just aren’t doing it well and it seems most potential leaders have to go offshore to get the development they need and we let it happen and just hope they come back home at some point in their future career.  But, despite all the research, training and text books on leadership, it isn’t just a New Zealand problem and it seems we are not producing great leaders anywhere around the world.

The week before NZAGE I attended the annual Human Synergistics Conference held in both Wellington and Auckland. Shaun McCarthy, Australasian Chairman of Human Synergistics, is always an interesting and thought provoking speaker and he mentioned recent research his company had done with 6500 top executives on both sides of the Tasman. Of those surveyed, over 70% business leaders are said to lack high levels of vision. Just 7% were said to have high levels of visionary thinking, enhanced productivity and the ability to bring out the best in others. Executives blame stress and pressure.

McCarthy has been quoted as saying the small number of visionary leaders across New Zealand and Australia is a direct result of how we have been taught to think for generations. He talked passionately about the need to be “a conscious organisation.”  By that he means one that has a high awareness of its purpose and the impact of what it does on its customers, employees, shareholders and wider community. And more importantly for me, one that has a proactive attitude to change (seeing it as a challenge not a threat) and focuses on long term effectiveness as opposed to the short-term view that seems prevalent these days. Short-termism does not lead to a constructive and successful culture.

Shaun’s presentation is on the Human Synergistics website if you are interested and he defined “the conscious organisation” as one that has the following qualities:

  • Courageous and visionary leaders
  • Aligned, cohesive teams
  • Motivated and engaged people
  • Coordinated functions united in purpose
  • Vision, purpose, values
  • Compelling strategy
  • Structure that empowers
  • Systems promoting excellence
  • Challenging realistic goals
  • Motivational job design
  • Disciplined execution
  • Distributed influence
  • Genuine communication

We all want to work in that sort of organisation, right?  And of course it has to come from the top down. Sadly, if our leaders don’t have the vision to take us there most organisations are not going to perform to the level they could do. So let us reflect on that last bullet point about genuine communication for a second.

I am sure I’m not alone in feeling we need to do something different. But what exactly?  Do we think leadership development has kept up with the pace of technological, global and demographic change? I’m starting to believe it hasn’t and it’s arguable that the complexity of the modern workplace has actually led to a failure of the traditional approaches to leadership development.

I have just read an excellent White Paper by Dr Hilary Armstrong who talks about leadership development for the future and makes these same points. She suggests we stop labouring under long held perceptions that a) leaders are born not made, or that b) leadership is a learned skill and can be boiled down to a set of competencies.  Dr Armstrong argues that 21st century leadership needs to start with the assumption that “connected intelligence” is the key. And this echoes Shaun McCarthy’s views about the conscious organisation.

We need to shift the focus from individual competencies to the creation of collaborative and networked organisational cultures through the development of agile, open and resourceful minds. Armstrong argues that leadership is not about heroic actions and charisma, but is a collaborative and democratic activity and grows out of the spontaneous conversations and relationships that happen every day as people face and deal with work crises.  A connected leader knows how to manage the conversation and the right style to use to suit the circumstances. They also know how to pause in the moment before responding, and will have high levels of self awareness. They know how to communicate in other words.

So what does that mean for those of us in HR roles where we are expected to provide leadership development?  In the real world we often battle with high turnover, talent shortages, under-performance and low engagement of staff and wonder what band aids we can put in place to fix these problems. It really all comes down to conversations and Dr Armstrong has some interesting suggestions to develop the different types of conversations needed in the workplace under-pinned by mindfulness and self awareness.

So it’s time to throw out the leadership development programmes and text books and start again with a new approach. If your HR and learning strategies are focused on quick fixes and stuck in the dark ages then you may as well pack up and go home. I think it’s time to wake ourselves up in HR, challenge our own thinking and work out how we can contribute to creating a vibrant and successful connected and conscious organisation. I don’t have all the answers yet, but I’m thinking about it and I know this is somewhere HR can make a real difference to the bottom line. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

Nurse, the smelling salts please…

2 comments on “Leadership development – why have we got it so wrong?

  1. Pingback: The only way is ethics | Up the Down Escalator

  2. Pingback: Leading from the front | Up the Down Escalator

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on 29/11/2012 by and tagged , , , .

Archives

chlobeany

Person 'Ell! Musings from a new career in HR

BLOG - Open Brackets

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

Notes From the Road

Some things I am learning along the way...

The Resource Force

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” (A. Warhol)

culture change by design

knowlegeworking|designthinking|creativenetworking

Into the wild

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

HR MUSINGS - Blog

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

What Goes Around

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

Chelsea-Rowe.com

Advice and tips for handling the conversations that leaders and managers of people have to should be having with their people, banter on new research that’s actually interesting and matters in plain and simple english, lot’s of pop-culture references, commentary on what people are doing right (and wrong) at work, MOST IMPORTANTLY — Real talk… I give it to you straight

Learning to Fly

Musings from an HR practitioner working things out as she goes along.

The HR Director Blog

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

hrmanagementbites

Thoughts about hr and management in the real world - extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

Blogging about Life

Living Life, Authentic Being, The future

HR Continuous Improvement

Lisa Hunter's thoughts and learnings from being a HR Professional who is passionate about Continuous Improvement and how it can make HR rock - even more than it does now!

HR Potential

Insight, innovation and inspiration from a Human Resources professional

Pontecarlo or Bust

ramblings of an eternal optimist

Gloria Ramsbottom-Lemieux : Global Post Modern HR

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

The Musings of an Internal Recruiter...

** VIews are my own, not of my employer

hrworkingmum

Musings from a fulltime working mum that decided to start her HR career 10 years too late...

T Recs

Personal thoughts on Recruiting and HR in a Social World...and some other random stuff too

Simplyhrmatters

Simply about Human Resources (HR)

dawnsmedley

Making a difference through appreciation!

People-ology

My thoughts about the things I do, the people I talk to and the places I go.

Raksha's Brain Dump

We work to become, not to acquire - Elbert Hubbard

Colin Ellis

Putting simplicity and success back into project management

The Social HR Connection

by Ashley Lauren Perez

NoExcusesHR

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

changinghr

There's a gorilla in the room we need to talk about!

101 Half Connected Things

Random thoughts on things that are half connected to the way I think about HR, L&D, Management, Leadership, business and the world.... and the world of business and the business of the world - a blog by David D'Souza (@dds180)

evilhrgenius

Evil HR thoughts

fuchsia blue

learning development change

Work Musing

Musings on the world of work

adjusteddevelopment

changing the world of work: one conversation at a time

People Performance Potential

Perspectives on people, leadership and change

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

Accidental HR

A dash of synchronicity and a heaping spoonful of sarcasm

Light the Candle

It's way better than cursing the darkness...Random thoughts on Recruitment/HR/life in general.

Talent Vanguard

Thoughts from the Leading Edge of Human Resources

hrgem

A blog about people stuff by Gemma Reucroft

The Recruiting Unblog

The Recruiting Unblog #tru: Posts on Recruiting, HR, Social Recruiting, Social Media and Technology. Base Camp for #tru and @BillBoorman

Your HR Buddy !!

Your Buddy in HR and everything related

RollerCoaster HR

The HR universe has many ups and downs and sometimes it may even make you sick!

Whipper Snapper HR

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

Rice Consulting

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

HR Remix

Thoughts of an HR professional in New Zealand

change-effect

WORK, EMPLOYMENT & OTHER RELATED FRIPPERY

HR Workaholic

Expediency should never come at the Expense of Excellence

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166 other followers

%d bloggers like this: