It seems that 1 of every 2 articles on LinkedIn are written about leadership.
20 years ago, when I started doing leadership work, it was a very different picture: investing in leadership was not ‘a given’. In fact, people-work in general was fairly fringe.
So the notion of developing leaders is fairly widely accepted, but – at least on the part of the clientbase we serve within Lockstep – many of those who invest in leadership aren’t quite convinced in their own mind of what they’re getting out of that investment.
So, it begs the question: “Is developing leaders worth the effort?”
When I think of leaders, what comes to mind is a throw-net, the kind that old-school fishermen used to throw into a lake, or a dam, to catch small fish for bait.
Within that net, a leader’s influence takes shape. This influence is very broad, both in visible and invisible ways. Take for instance the notion of ‘ambition’: the energy that people have (or don’t have) to try hard, seek betterment and stretch themselves toward excellence.
All those people in the ‘net’ make a decision about the ambition that they want to bring to their work, and by-and-large, their leader will dictate this level of ambition. The leader sets the conditions for ambition, shapes the environment, encourages or discourages, boosts or represses.
Think of the implications of this. It’s extreme, particularly if there are 20 or 30 people within this ‘net’. And ambition is just one such consideration – there are dozens of others such as standards, hope, alignment, willingness, attention to detail, ethics, honesty etc.
And this is the point: a leader has incredibly broad influence over just about everything. And to have someone who wants to and knows how to shape all of these attributes is worth their weight in gold because their influence makes so many others better.
From a leverage point of view, it’s the difference between farming a field of lettuce by hand, one bushel at a time, or using clever, sophisticated, scalable, efficient, excellent machinery to bring a multitude of beautiful lettuce bushells to life, all growing in their own way, but in a coordinated way.
That said, we at Lockstep recognise the difference between sending leaders on a training program, and developing leaders who actually move the dial. The two are highly different and many clients, we have noticed, have dutifully spent money developing leaders without seeing the benefit. So the hope in leadership is well-deserved, but skepticism is healthy as it keeps the investment decision sharp and on point.