Who Else Wants to Develop as a Leader?

As I sit and write this article, the day is August 11, 2016. My beautiful wife Kim and I celebrate 32 years of marriage today. I cannot tell you all the joy that this relationship has brought me over the years. Which is why, when we were having coffee this morning, gazing into each other's eyes (well, maybe it was more like a stare waiting for the coffee to kick in…no, no I am sure it was gazing) Kim asked me a most curious question:

“When we got married, do you think we were best friends?”

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Those of you with any skill in the art of marital conversation will quickly realize the trap I was in. To say yes would potentially mean we were better friends then than now. To answer no would potentially mean we had not quite reached that “best friend” level but married anyway.

So, like any skilled married person, I said, “Tell me more about what you are thinking." She said, “Well..." and I breathed a sigh of relief that we were going to unpack this discussion together. Kim continued, “I mean, we are such good friends now. I know we were friends, and probably best friends, but there is no way we were as good of friends then as we are now.” Then she provided the wisdom,

“We have grown so much!"

Ah, yes. We have grown so much.

The Growth

The growth that Kim and I have experienced in our marriage is two-fold from my perspective.

First, we have grown as individuals. Each of us have different interests and callings. These differences in skills and abilities need to be honed, nurtured, and grown. Second, our relationship as a married couple has grown. Over the years we have made emotional and social deposits in our relationship accounts, building up equity and assets we can rely on that help to strengthen the trust we have in each other. This networking back and forth in the relationship relies heavily on the use of interpersonal skills and competencies such as mutual respect and empathy.

In a healthy and vibrant marriage you have to grow as an individual and the relationship has to grow as well. Both are important.  You certainly cannot focus on individual growth only. If you are only growing as individuals, the relationship will suffer. You will focus on yourself and your needs and the relationship will suffer. By the same token, you can not solely focus on the relationship, stifling individual growth and personal achievement.

Bridge to Leadership

Ok, so I know most of you read this for some perspective on leadership and not marriage relationships. Here is the point, in development, leadership is a lot like marriage. You have to focus on yourself as a leader as well as on your leadership.

Leader Development Is Distinguishable from Leadership Development

Leader development focuses on the skills, talents, knowledge, and abilities of the individual person. This can be in the form of formal courses where the leader does analysis and self-reflection. Courses on personality, such as the Pearman Personality Integrator, Myers-Briggs, or DiSC are examples. Training in emotional intelligence using an assessment like the EQi-2.0 is another example of leader development. There is knowledge of self that is then put to use inside the organization. Learning in the area of core values, or important skills like marketing or sales, are also part of the leader development domain.

Leadership development has more of an emphasis on building social capital, networking, and the interpersonal skills such as reciprocity and trustworthiness. Leadership from a social capital sense builds upon the work of Robert Putnam who gave three reasons why social capital is important:

  • Social capital allows citizens to resolve collective problems. People are better off when they cooperate.
  • When people trust each other they are more likely to interact more often and better with each other. As a result, everyday business and social transactions become less costly.
  • Understanding in the end that our fates are linked.

Leader development is key. It is clear. It is usually what most of us think about when we think of leadership development.

My premise is that we need to work on both, and what gets left out of the mix is our work in actual leadership development.

Think about your organization. Maybe you are in an HR, Training, or Functional leadership position. Whatever your organizational role, ask yourself three questions:

  1. What kind of environment am I fostering that allows leaders to solve collective problems? How are we rewarding and recognizing cooperation over individual achievement?
  2. How are we setting up our work environments and meetings so that they happen more frequently and better? It isn’t the frequency of your meetings that is the problem, it is the quality. Social Capital Theory would say that the more people are together and the better they are together this is what drives costs down.
  3. Do your leaders understand that their fates are linked? Are their reward and recognition systems linked? Do sales and marketing share goals? Have you done disaster scenarios around the possibility that your vision is not realized?

Too many times in the leadership development space, we focus solely on the leader and not really on leadership.

Success in marriage requires both focusing on developing the individual and the relationship. I would argue that success in the organization requires developing the leader and leadership.

Hey Kim, sign me up for another 32 years. Happy Anniversary!

Homework:

Do the 3 question assessment of your organization above. Have the discussion with leaders on your team. What do you need to do in your organization to both improve your leader and your leadership abilities?

Here is to wishing you many happy anniversaries leading your organization!