Organizational culture is comprised of the assumptions, beliefs, and practices of an entity or organization. Culture is reinforced through symbols, rituals, the stories that are told–and through what gets reinforced by way of training and development.
In an age in which leadership is touted over and over again as a critical variable in defining the success or failure of organizations, it becomes all the more important to look to the other side of the leadership coin—how leaders create culture and how culture defines and creates leaders. Edgar Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership
Schein makes the case that organizational culture is a transference process from leader to leader. Founding leaders embed culture and subsequent leaders ensure that organizational culture is valued and sustained. Therefore, good leader development is an absolute necessity.
There are three critical components for quality leader development:
This starting point is about assessment. One must assess the emerging leader towards their personal development and one must assess the organizational environment that will enhance that development.
The Emerging Leader
What are the foundational strengths, abilities, and personality traits of this emerging leader?
What is the nature of their current leadership presence? How do the present themselves? How are they received by others?
What leadership experience do they possess? What successes point towards a bright future? What wounds need to be addressed and redeemed?
How do they respond to authority? How do they view the concepts of power, privilege, and authority? Do they see these resources as something to wield or as pathways for servant leadership?
Do they have a vision for their life? Is that vision compatible with the calling of the organization?
What character traits need to be developed? What leadership competencies need to be acquired or refined?
The Development Environment
Do those who lead the organization at the highest level see leader development as a necessity?
Is there an organizational environment that allows time and money to be stewarded towards leader development?
Does the organization see people as their most precious resource or does it see them as simply a commodity to be utilized?
Is there a value on both a common and custom approach to leader development–meaning that there are certain core pieces that every emerging leader within the organization must learn and there is the freedom to tailor development towards a person’s needs?
This is the instructional element of the development process. Equipping must flow towards a leader’s character and their competencies. This reflects both the being and doing parts of leadership.
A leader’s core character matters more than ever. You can open your favorite news app and become instantly aware of the need for leadership character in politics, commerce, education, sports–or any other field you would choose. Edwin Friedman, in his book A Failure of Nerve, has made the case that the greatest quality of a 21st-century leader will be the ability to bring a non-anxious presence into every setting. To do so will require solid emotional intelligence, great integrity, and a sense of strong identity.
In my opinion, there is no better description of needed leadership character qualities that what is listed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. This biblical instruction lays out the reality that we cannot live duplicitous lives. We are the same people at home as we are at work. Our true character, our “being,” will always evidence itself through our leadership relationships, communications, and actions over time.
We must also insist upon rigorous competency training. A leader must be a continual learner. A significant portion of that ongoing learning must center around leadership skills.
Leadership core competencies must include the following: strategic direction setting, vision casting, dynamic problem solving, dealing with relational conflict in a healthy way, good public and interpersonal communication, strategy execution, and the ability to truly affect change. Other competencies may be heralded as necessary for growing leaderhsip over time. The goal is not perfection. Some leaders will naturally be better than others in living out these skills. But the effective leader must value these functions and ensure they are accomplished through themselves or others.
Empowerment is what takes leadership learning out of the classroom and places it squarely in reality. To empower an emerging leader is to risk. There must be permission to succeed and freedom to fail. Empowerment must include the transference of real decision-making authority, the allocation of adequate resources, and a healthy sense of accountability that focuses on leadership learning. Without these three aspects, there is no true empowerment.
Emerging leaders learn best through leading. It will be in the real world experience of leading that character will be revealed and tested. The daily task of leading will exercise competencies towards growth. Real responsibility must be given,
Real responsibility must be given, the opportunity to make a difference be granted, and actionable feedback provided. The emerging leaders around you will benefit from exposure to you and the education your provide. But they will really benefit by owning the mission and having the opportunity to make a significant contribution.
Take some time to consider your leader development efforts. Are you being intentional about evaluating, equipping, and empowering leaders around you? What will it take to move towards these components? Is there a valued leadership development culture within your organization? What will it take to make it so?
The Leader’s Mandate is to always be about the task of raising up more leaders.