Leaders Develop Others and Themselves

I’m reviewing ideas in the book The Leadership Code: 5 Rules to Lead By, (Harvard Business Press, 2011) Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman. All leaders who want to be effective should function well as a strategist (shape the future), an executor (get things done), a talent manager (bring out the best in people), and as a human capitol developer (prepare for the next generation). And, as a foundation for these roles, an effective leader must excel at their own personal proficiency (they must invest in their own learning and development in order to lead others well).
In a previous post I reviewed Rule 1: Shape the future and Rule 2: Make things happen. Here are rules 3, 4, and 5.
Rule 3: Engage today’s talent. As a talent manager, you’re in charge of optimizing teams’ performance. You must answer the question, “Who goes with us on our business journey?” You need to know how to identify, build and engage talent for immediate results.
How can you bring out the best in people? Do you know which skills are required and where to find talent in your organization? How can you best develop and engage people, guaranteeing that they turn in their best efforts? When you excel at talent management, you generate personal, professional and organizational loyalty. Talent thrives when you provide nurturing and developmental opportunities.
Rule 4: Build the next generation. As a human-capital developer, you’ll need to plan for the next generation. You must answer the question, “Who stays and sustains the organization for the next generation?” Just as talent managers ensure shorter-term results through people, human-capital developers make sure the organization has the longer-term competencies and people required for future strategic success.
This rule requires you to think in terms of building a workforce plan focused on future talent, developing that talent and helping employees envision their future careers within the company. You cannot overlook the fact that the organization will outlive any single individual.
Rule 5: Invest in yourself. Leaders must model what they want others to master. Leading others ultimately begins with yourself. You cannot expect to influence followers unless you invest time and energy on your personal proficiency, individual strengths, self-awareness, and emotional and social intelligence. If you’re not working with a mentor or executive coach, you’re missing out on one of the most effective ways to build your strengths and talents.

A Framework for Leadership

Are leaders born or made? I could argue for both positions. In the work I do corporate coaching, I’ve seen some naturally gifted leaders, and some who’ve simply worked hard and grown into excellence.
The real issue is that all leaders can improve. Whether you’re a seasoned executive or a high-potential team member, you can boost your performance in five crucial leadership areas. I’ve seen this happen. I’ve been working with high potential people who’ve made some amazing improvements through executive coaching.
More than half a million business books deal with leadership acumen, but studying the most respected experts’ ideas reveals a consensus on the foremost functions required for effectiveness.
In The Leadership Code: 5 Rules to Lead By, (Harvard Business Press, 2011) Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman have synthesized current thinking on leadership and developed a framework that blends idealism with realism. They’ve distilled leadership into five core roles, regardless of one’s industry or business environment:

  1. Strategist Leaders shape the future.
  2. Executor Leaders make things happen.
  3. Talent manager Leaders engage today’s talent.
  4. Human-capital developer Leaders build the next generation.
  5. Personal proficiency Leaders invest in their own development.

Having a framework for the most essential leadership skills will help you avoid quick fixes and business-book fads. While the scope of leadership may seem overwhelming, these five golden rules provide much-needed focus.
Leaders must excel in many areas: innovative strategies, long-term customer relationships, quality execution, high-performing teams and accountability. They need to manage people, communicate well, engage and inspire others, exercise keen judgment and decision-making, excel at emotional intelligence and demonstrate ethical integrity. It’s easy to get lost if you pursue the wrong priorities.
With a clear and concise framework that covers the entire leadership landscape, you can concentrate on how to become more effective and determine the best ways to develop talent. The Leadership Code offers five pivotal rules that lay out how the game is played. Knowing them enables you to modify your behavior and ultimately succeed.
There’s no doubt that people can grow and develop their leadership talent; I’ve seen it happen in the work I do as an executive coach. But what’s needed is focused, deliberate practice on the things that count, that really contribute to a leader being effective. These five areas pinpoint the most essential things to concentrate on.
What do you think about these concepts? Do they encapsulate all of the areas required for a leader to be effective? I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment.

Foresight: Survival of the Optimists

“Optimists have a sixth sense for possibilities that realists can’t or won’t see.” ~ Warren Bennis, leadership professor.

There is a dramatic difference between people who react to roadblocks with a sense of futility and pessimism and those who react with determination and optimism.

Psychologist Martin Seligman has validated that the most successful business leaders are inspired by a sense of optimism. I can say that of the corporate coaching clients I’ve worked with , the ones who succeed most often display a sense of realistic optimism. They are grounded in reality, but see things in a positive light. Setbacks are temporary, impersonal, and challenges to be overcome.

Those who learn to be optimistic about life and work are far more likely to be successful than those who view a current event through the pessimist’s lens. Being optimistic doesn’t mean ignoring reality or the hardships required to get great results. Leaders can define a business reality, yet defy a negative verdict. By being optimists, leaders give people the hope, energy and strength needed to carry on.

The more you understand reality, the more prepared you are to endure hardships and adversity. Optimism, and a vision for what’s possible, supplies the energy to keep going, persist through challenges and come out on the other side.

One of the best ways to expand your potential leadership abilities is to work with an executive coach, who can help you see what you don’t yet see. An experienced coach will stimulate your thinking and conversations about what’s possible.

You Can See Forever

To become a better leader, or to be seen as a high-potential leader, spend more time in the future. At some point, a future focus will permeate your thinking and saturate your communications.

Everything you do and say will remind people of the future you want to create – for yourself, your colleagues, your customers and the organization. You will draw upon your past experiences, your core values and your guiding purpose.

You will become well-read about trends as you study the future and talk with other people about the exciting possibilities. There’s no doubt that we live in interesting times, and game-changing ideas, products and services are popping up all the time.

Being part of the future allows you to contribute to its creation. You can’t do that without taking time to develop your capacity to be future-focused. And you can’t become future-focused without discipline and action.

What are you doing to express a future orientation in your communications? Where can you interject more forward-thinking and anticipatory thinking? How are you asking your people to think about the future, for your products, services and customers? I’d love to hear from you.