We believe leaders are developed not born, but it does not happen overnight. Whether you are an apprentice, rookie, student, intern, fellow, trainee, or serving duty under instruction, the knowledge and abilities necessary for both followership and leadership take years to develop. There are no short-cuts.
Leadership is more than technical and managerial competency. These are only part of the story. The much larger part of leadership is about people. How are they inspired, encouraged, and motivated? Do they recognize the importance of followership as it relates to leadership development? The competencies for followership and leadership require nurturance. They need to be seen lived out in the lives of others. They need to be practiced and experienced over and over again. This is what developing leadership capacity is all about. Unfortunately, in too many places this perspective is given only lip service or is turned over to human resources or the training department to resolve. No wonder there are so few companies and organizations focused on the common good.
If we are to develop genuine leaders who inspire others to live lives of self-less courage and serve others above self, then we believe four prerequisites must be in place. We would call them the four C’s – Character, Competency, Compassion, and Courage. If a leader is missing any one of them, that person’s effectiveness is weakened, his/her team’s potential is undermined, and the organization’s mission is put at risk.
Leadership development takes time and commitment. Yes, classes, books, seminars, sharing of good practices have their place, but unfortunately their effectiveness has a short half-life. We believe leadership development ideally occurs over four life stages.
- Early education
- Basic technical or professional education
Each stage is a platform to see and experience the four C’s in action. Each has the components of learning, observation, experience and feedback. Each offers new challenges with opportunities to learn from both successes and failures. Meeting these challenges develops the competencies for both followership and leadership. They must be met and dealt with or they will become stumbling blocks down the road, potentially leading to a “leadership crisis.”
It is important to note that each stage requires leaders who are committed to developing others, adding their knowledge and wisdom to the next generation. In families it is moms and dads. In education it is teachers, advisors, and coaches. In careers it is teammates, supervisors, managers, executives, and heads of organizations and governments.
One of the major tasks of leaders today is to accurately discern the competence of their people for followership and leadership, with a goal for them to become good followers and ultimately great leaders. Though people may get a late start in developing their followership and leadership competencies, in most cases, they can still make significant strides in their leadership journey. This happens if, and only if, they have leaders who understand the fundamentals of leadership development and unmistakably “walk the talk.” And this needs to happen all the way from the shop floor to the board room. We contend that the degree to which leadership development is championed, is the degree to which an organization will sustain exceptional performance and achieve superior results.
Being a leader is a demanding job. It is not for the faint- hearted. Technical/managerial and relational/people skills are two sides of the same coin. A leader cannot be effective unless both skills are used. Further, leaders (at every level) must be committed to living the four C’s and have a clear understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses.
On paper building and developing a team would seem to be straight forward.
- Set standards of excellence
- Care for and develop your people
- Establish clear lines of responsibility
- Hold your people accountable
- Clearly communicate expectations
- Lead by example
In practice, however, that is usually not the case. Building and developing a team is challenging, demanding, and frankly tiring. Some days you will make headway and on other days you may wonder if you are making a difference at all. Despite that, we believe it is worth all the effort. Not only do we grow because of the experience, we will also be making a significant difference in the lives of many people.
Finally, and most importantly, one’s investment in leadership development will be evident in the performance of the team and the results achieved.