Leadership Development – 20 Questions for Leaders

Here are my responses to the 20 questions about developing leadership.

Check it out and let me know what you think; whether you agree or disagree, it would be interesting to know.

1. Do you believe emotional intelligence is a skill you can develop in others?

Yes, i believe it can be developed, but how much depends on how much emotional intelligence you have to start with. Empathy can be improved, but if you have very little to start with don’t expect miracles.

2. Do you agree that of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable? – and one of the least understood 

It’s certainly an important skill, but I wouldn’t say it’s the most important. Certainly there are many examples of Leaders who failed because they didn’t listen to good advice.
I also think there are many examples of Leaders that don’t 
listen, and I don’t think this comes from a lack of understanding, just some of the personality types who are attracted to leadership, e.g. drivers, who don’t do listening 🙂

3. Should leaders take action to create a “happy” environment for their people?

Absolutely, happy people are productive people and productive people are happy people. This creates an engaging environment which people look forward to and inspires them to get involved.

4. How do you get leaders to realise that they need to develop further? 

Most leaders know that leadership is a journey, not a destination and that if we are not learning we are stagnating. I think open discussion and examples of other great leaders who never stopped learning is one way to help get the message across.

5. Should “high potential” employees know of their status?

As a good feedback culture is always recommended, then the answer to this question has to be yes. However we need to be careful how we do this, as we can raise peoples expectations to unrealistic levels, which can then be detrimental to their development. I have known cases where people, once they knew how highly they were rated, sat back and waited for things to come to them rather than going out and getting them.

6. What are the workplace behaviours you have observed that have the most negative impact on organisational success?

Selfishness and dishonesty. Selfishness in the case where people are more interested in their own success, even to the detriment of the organisation, and dishonesty which leads to a lack of trust, or lying about performance results.

7. What have you found is the biggest hurdle to getting Succession Planning implemented?

It’s never seen as critical until it’s actually needed. Also, I think this depends on what you mean, are you talking about developing a talent pipeline or ensuring specific skills are available, so that there is no area where we have only one expert. In my opinion, the best way to handle Succession Planning is to ensure that you have a strong talent pipeline. We need to be like top football teams, we need to have academies where we develop our high potentials, to ensure that they are ready to step in when needed.

8. How often should Talent Review meetings occur?

This is a tough question, I have worked in a couple of companies where these were annual events, but in many cases, it was seen as a chore, or it was a process where we ranked people against each other, and then it was used fixed assessment which couldn’t change until the next review.

I think annual is a good idea in order to get these started, and also to provide a history. But I also think organisations need to mature to a better model.

In football, players are assessed at the end of each game, to see whether their performance was in line with expectations, and if not corrective actions are put in place, additional training or rest. Also, at the end of the season there is an annual review to assess the strength of the squad. As we all want to look to develop High Performing Organisations with Winning Culture, then why not adopt a similar approach.
Regular reviews after major projects with an annual end of season review, this will allow us to take the necessary actions when needed rather than wait until the end of the seasons to make some important needed changes. 

9. Should Talent Profiles (internal resumes) include a photograph of each employee?

The only reason for not doing so would be if this would lead to discrimination. 

10. Can you teach old dogs new tricks?

Absolutely. You can teach practically anything to anyone who is willing to learn. It’s a lack of willingness that inhibits learning and that’s not just dependent upon age. 

11. Is relationship building the cornerstone of successful Leadership?

Yes. Leadership is all about the relationship between the Leader and the Followers, in which trust is usually a huge component.

12. Leadership Lessons from the Movies – what’s your favourite Movie?

The Last Castle with Robert Redford.
This is a great leadership movie, it contrasts two different leadership styles.
Robert Redfords character focuses on seeing the good in people,  giving them back their self respect, building a trusting relationship and then leading them to success. Although in this film Robert Redford plays an Army General he has a humble leadership style which draws people in, rather than using a directing command and control style.

13. Are Leaders Born or Made?

Both.  Some of the traits that are desirable in a leader are inherited, but the majority can be learnt. So, if you are born with the right traits leadership will be easier for you, but if not, don’t despair you can certainly learn more than enough to become a great leader.

14. How are you using Social Media for your personal leadership development?

Leadership is about relationships and connections between the Leader and Followers, and with Social Media this takes connectedness to a different level. So I am looking to use this to learn about how this works and how to improve the connectedness and closeness that comes with Social Media. I think Hierarchical Leadership models will become a thing of the past and people who cannot master social Networks will find it very hard to lead. 

15. Leaders Develop Themselves First! Don’t You Agree?

Ideally yes. I think this is true of people who know they want to be leaders, and they look to develop themselves. But as they saying goes ‘and some have leadership thrust upon them”, in this case where people are possibly reluctant leaders, they probably didn’t do a lot of self development beforehand.

For anyone looking to become a leader, I would certainly suggest developing themselves first. It’s much easier to spot a future leader where someone demonstrated leadership themselves. 

16. Can you train people to be authentic?

Absolutely. But the question is why do they not act authentically, it could be because in an authentic mode they appear selfish, dishonest and untrustworthy, and it could be this that they are trying to hide.

So, yes we can train people to stop hiding who they really are. The more important and difficult question is, can we train them to be something they are not. e.g. teach someone who is dishonest to be honest. Again we can but it all depends on their willingness.

17. How important do you think it is to prepare the next generation for leadership before they enter the workplace?

I think that this is a good idea, given that leaders are, in my opinion, predominantly made – then why not start the process earlier, the earlier we start then they better they could become.

The challenge with this is that, we could then end up with leaders, who only have experience of leading, and very little experience of doing. Certainly for myself, the experience of doing is invaluable as a leader, as I can better understand whats involved. I like the approach in the Army, where in the Royal Marines even the officers have to go through the standard basic training. This means that their men respect that they have done the same training as them, and that the leaders understand what their men have been through. So, if we look to develop leaders prior to entering into the workplace, then we should look to ensure that they pick up experience of working too.

18. Can a manager be a coach?

If a manager cannot be a coach, how can he help people who are struggling with their task. I certainly would not look to make anyone a manager who cannot coach.

19. How does internal training compare to external training?

In my experience, external training has almost always been the better training and learning experience.
However, no matter how excellent the external training was, it is not usually part of a leadership framework, it’s just a stand alone event.
With internal training, hopefully the company will have a leadership framework, a type of leadership culture which they are looking to implement, and all of the trainings will be part of this and geared to ensuring that this culture is implemented and followed company wide. If I was to set up an internal training program, I would base it on best external practises, and have external trainers provide it. 

20. What have you found to be the most effective methods for maximizing the “stickability” of learnings from leadership workshops and other educational events?

The best way to ensure stickability of leadership, is to make the training fun and engaging. Focus on changing, or helping people learn about, behaviours rathe than facts, figures, and methods. Try to touch them on an emotional level, things we learn when we are emotionally involved are significantly better remembered or learnt.