A New Lens for Leaders

a new lens for leaders Feb 01, 2024

A New Lens for Leaders

Recently someone asked me to explain what I do. In the past I would have rambled through way too many words. Thanks to Brand Builders Group and my strategist Jay Twining, I am more concise. Here was my response. 

We train leaders - to develop their people - to drive growth. And we do that using a leadership model based on development rather than managing and motivating.  This description has two parts: what we do and the leadership model we use to do it.

Most organizations want their people driving growth. What they DON’T DO is train leaders to develop their people to drive growth. As a result, people development and growth are detached from leadership in most organizations. In these organizations, development is something you send people to rather than something leaders do with their team members. When development is detached from leadership, leadership becomes about “doing.” Think about performance reviews. The goal is usually “did you meet expectation?” Did you do what I wanted you to do? If you did, most leaders are happy and don’t expect more.

In a “doing” leadership model, development is usually about preparing someone to advance to another role rather than improving in their current role. If you asked the average leader to describe their strategy to help their team members grow in their role, they would probably scratch their head in confusion. They just want their people to “do,” rather than grow. This is the reason that most people’s performance plateaus at how the organization defines successful. There is no strategy or incentive to inspire people to grow in their role. It’s a weird perspective given how much focus is put on the bottom line.

An exception to this would be athletics and the arts. Position coaches help athletes get better at their role. Music, vocal, and speech coaches help artists master their craft. Athletics and the arts are both using a development leadership model, not a managing and motivating leadership model. The concept is simple – help people get better at what they do. There is an obvious performance benefit. When people master their role, they perform better. When they perform better the whole team performs better, whether it is a sports team, a choral group, a manufacturing team, or a sales team.

Most of the leadership models we still use today are variations of leadership models we’ve been using for 30 years. These models were built on the platform of managing and motivating people – that was the job of the leader in the previous era. We’re not in that era anymore.

Here’s why helping people grow in their role is essential today. Organizations need more than “doers” today.  They need the whole person: thinkers, adapters, problem solvers, collaborators, and innovators. People in the workforce need more than tasks to do and goals to achieve. They need connection and understanding. They need support and empathy. If people don’t feel connected and supported, they will leave. If they don’t think that you understand them and show empathy, they will not trust you – and then they will leave. Either way, turnover is a problem and performance declines. If you shy away from developing your team, you might want to ask if leadership is the right place for you in the 21st century. It’s the only path to a better future for everyone.

In the next post we will begin exploring how to help people grow in their role.

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