Robin Williams once joked before a British audience about one world leader: ‘Some are born great. Some achieve greatness. Some get it as a graduation gift.’
That sarcastic joke encapsulates one of the intangible aspects of the essence of leadership. Some leaders are born, and others do the best they can under the circumstances—and depending on their training. Still others inherit the role and have jokes told about them.
In fact, there are some historical figures who are remembered with the title ‘…The Great’ after their name. Alexander of Macedon and Russian royalty Peter and Catherine come to mind.
Then there was Napoleon Bonaparte. He was one of those great leaders who knew how to get soldiers to fight for him: ‘A soldier will fight long and hard for a piece of coloured ribbon.’
The modern essence of leadership, on the other hand, rests both on positional authority as well as the willing cooperation of the led. In fact, people change jobs nowadays not because they don’t like the company. They are really reacting to leadership styles that neither inspire nor motivate. Some leaders don’t have what it takes.
How Australia Stacks up in the Leadership Arena
The Study of Australian Leadership (SAL) report by the University of Melbourne gets right to the heart of the matter. Its executive summary warns that the Australian economy, having enjoyed an ‘unprecedented 25 years of economic growth, is slowing.’
The warning is sobering: ‘Productivity is sluggish, employment growth is weakening, and consumer confidence is faltering. Many economists are now predicting an extended period of slow economic growth and recovery.’
Key findings of the SAL:
- Formal leadership development programs take up less than 40% of Australian workplace leadership offerings.
- Leadership development ‘has a positive and significant indirect relationship with both radical and incremental workplace innovation.’
- Not surprisingly, there is a ‘positive relationship…between leadership development and leadership effectiveness.’ In fact, formal leadership programmes ‘are positively and significantly related to the self-efficacy of workplace leaders.’
So, if Australia wants to stay competitive and continue to generate growth and jobs, the report continues, ‘organisations need to…develop new capabilities and new sources of growth.’ The SAL delves deeply into those issues, and the report should be required reading for all leaders.
The value of the SAL findings lies in its validation of what is intuitively obvious: Leadership training and development works, and Australia needs more of it. Boiled down to basics, leadership training also involves the recognition that even born leaders don’t earn the title ‘…The Great’ overnight.
Those natural leaders must be developed and nurtured in an ongoing culture of learning. The company that fails to invest in leadership training can expect an exodus of good people heading for the greener pastures of better leadership.
7 Benefits (and requisites) of Leadership Training
There are 7 main benefits of leadership training. They are outcome-oriented. The benefits accrue from training programmes that target the talent that already exists in the company:
1. Leadership training helps to differentiate and set the boundary between leadership and management skills.
The roles of managers and leaders often blend, but the real difference is this: good leaders aren’t invested in the ego trip of bossing people around. They are more driven to accomplish an overall vision. They don’t care who gets the credit as long as the job gets done well.
Leaders know that people and dedicated performance are the keys to productivity and success. Leaders do that through developing and coaching. They focus on empathy and managing change. Good leaders are mentors in search of their own replacements.
2. Leaders must know everything about the business and inspire others to be the best they can be.
The best leaders have the big picture. They are well-versed in where the organisation is headed, along with what kinds of people and skills need to be harnessed to get there.
Today’s technology, according to SAL, ‘is spawning a new class of business models, which are disrupting established ways of doing business…’ Leaders must understand that challenge. That understanding need not be based in the details of coding, but leaders must know how to hire and inspire those with the technical expertise. They must continually encourage everyone to be experts in what they do and become leaders in their field.
3. Leaders must always have an eye on the future.
Leaders have a key role in retaining the best, most qualified workers. Retention is through motivation, rewards, and promise of promotion to roles of greater responsibility. That means that star performers must work in a culture that encourages upward mobility through meeting well-defined and measurable goals.
4. Leaders must set clear goals and expectations.
Skye Schooley writes for Business News Daily, that setting clear expectations ‘is an essential responsibility that many business owners gloss over. Setting clear goals does away with confusion and increases the chances of successful performance. The author cites the lack of clear goal setting as a major inhibitor of good performance on the job.
The old adage that people perform best when the leader personally monitors is partly on target here. However, setting goals is not micromanaging. Most managers appreciate a leader who sets clear expectations and communicates those responsibilities.
5. Leaders must be honest and open when communicating with their team.
Everyone has their preferred communication style. Some prefer text. Others thrive on the telephone, while some are more comfortable with face-to-face. The best leaders adapt to the communication styles of those who work for them. They take the time and customise their communication style to motivate and listen.
The best listeners are genuinely empathetic and contribute to a culture of trust and clear communications in their organisation. Leadership training programs promote active listening.
6. Leaders can be the main contributors to the organisation’s financial outcomes.
Enlightened leaders align their efforts with clearly stated business goals, developing skills in project execution, and engaging employees. There is less time wasted and systems stay in place for sustained future deployment.
7. Leaders must be agile and help the organisation adapt to change.
There can be no improvement without change, and it is an ongoing process. Leaders must set the tone in every organisation and make change a part of the corporate culture. According to a Centre for Creative Leadership White Paper in today’s volatile business environment over 85% of companies supporting leadership development programmes are more successful in responding to change.