“Help! We need more leaders but cannot seem to find any.”
If you have ever spoken this lament, or any variation of this theme, you have much deeper problems with your organization’s culture than simply missing a few leaders.
First, let’s dispel the pervasive Western myth of the “born leader.” More than 150 years of research on leadership has proven many times over that this is a false assumption. Research has instead convincingly demonstrated that leaders are developed through processes that include training, coaching and mentoring, learning from direct experience, and intentional reflection. In our consulting work of developing leaders through TurningWest, we advocate for a 1 – 3 – 5 – 1 developmental approach. 1 part training and education, 3 parts coaching and mentoring, 5 parts direct praxis of learning through intentional experience, and finally 1 part of thoughtful reflection in order to process and reinforce the leadership lessons gained.
The struggle to find leaders within organization is a clear warning sign that your culture is not attending to leadership development. This is the heart of organizational dysfunction. Healthy organizations make leadership development a primary responsibility. At TurningWest we call this the “Leadership Prime Directive”, namely, Leaders create more and better leaders. Leaders do not just get stuff done. They do not simply get rewarded for increasing the bottom line or magnifying impact. Leaders actively, intentionally, and persistently work at developing the leadership capacity of those around them.
Organizational dysfunction germinates when leaders are overly focused on too narrow of strategies and objectives. Dysfunction results when leadership development is overlooked at an integral part of the role of the leader. The failure to grow people, to invest in teams, to create healthy human work culture ultimately results in a stunted organization that cannot sustain its own leadership functions. Attempting to import leaders from the outside as the organization’s only method for increasing its internal leadership capacity is also a failed strategy. Bringing in leaders from the outside will never keep pace with healthy growth.
Training alone will not resolve this type of dysfunction. We know that leadership training, when undertaken apart from organizational culture change, is only marginally effective, if at all. Rather, the solution is to examine the deepest assumptions buried in the culture and realign them to create an internal leadership development process that consistently produces more and better leaders to drive the organization’s growth and advancements. Do this, and you will never again have to bewail your lack of leaders.