We talk much about the dearth of leadership in our businesses, non-profits, churches, and governments. Yet we have leadership institutes in our colleges, we have thousands of blogs on leadership (including this one!), there are enough books on leadership to fill up a library, we have seminars, and on and on. Yet we still hear of organizations lamenting the lack of good leaders. Organizations struggle with succession as their next level of leaders are not yet ready to step up and lead and we see failure after failure of leaders.
From my experience and study, it seems that one key reason is that we are not truly willing to put the work into crafting new leaders. We talk about it, but when it comes to actually doing it, we just don’t prioritize the development of new leaders as we should. We see this in our approach to leadership development.
Most often the approach I have seen, and read about, to developing leaders is one with a mass production mentality. Have them read books and discuss in groups, send them to seminars or conferences, have them pursue advanced degrees or certifications,and so on. All of your prospective leaders being run through the same mass production system. The problem is, while these things may or may not have value, the real leadership development does not occur in this type of system. All you get with this approach is mediocrity.
Leaders are not mass produced through a one size fits all system. Leaders are individual works of art crafted lovingly by a master craftsman who loves his work and focuses intensely on his work. Time and again, when you learn about exceptional leaders you discover that there was someone who invested deeply into their lives. Someone who walked with them showing them the way. Someone who knew them well enough to design learning experiences just for them to meet their specific needs.
Leaders are handcrafted one at a time by a “master craftsman” who is willing to invest into the developing leader. It’s hard work. It takes knowing the person well, which means studying them. They are unique individuals that require a uniquely designed approach to enable them to flourish and to reach their potential as a leader.
So, if you really want to develop highly effective leaders for your organization that truly possess your organization’s DNA, then you will have to roll up your sleeves and begin building them – one at a time.
Hard work, but well worth it.