What I’m about to say might sound strange for a leadership consultant: We don’t need to learn more leadership skills.
Sounds counterintuitive? Well, hear me out.
Yes it’s true the world is on ever more rocky ground, we may be heading for a new financial crisis, and the machines are coming for our jobs. Nothing new there. Forward thinking organizations are preparing for what the next few years will throw at them. And leadership is often touted as what will help us weather the storm.
That’s not wrong, in fact it’s right. The problem is focusing on developing leadership skills.
Leadership doesn’t depend on a few skills or even many skills. That’s because it’s not a skill at all. It’s a mindset shaping everything we do.
Limiting Leadership with Skills
But before we look at a leadership mindset, let’s take a look at why focusing on leadership skills doesn’t work.
The leadership skills we learn on a development program often don’t have the desired effect back in the workplace. Skills development works well in fields that have specific and unchanging rules to learn, like tennis or chess. But in the current business climate leadership isn’t a game of chess; even if we think there are ‘rules’ they’re changing too rapidly for us to keep up.
Leadership models, tools and techniques have a short shelf life outside the training room when we try them out in projects or on our real life colleagues.
Teams might be trying out new leadership behaviours, but to make those behaviours stick we need a different way of thinking – what I call a leadership mindset. Because without the leadership mindset that brings those behaviour changes to life they feel like badly fitting clothes. These new leadership skills just don’t sit right so they’re less likely to have long term staying power.
In short, leadership skills training gives you a model to follow, and hey presto you’re a leader. In reality we know leadership doesn’t work like that, and following all the models in the world and learning skills won’t make us leaders in our sphere of influence.
Focusing on a leadership mindset is different. That’s because it starts with looking at how we think about ourselves and relate to the world, and so it spotlights current behaviours and their effects.
Developing a leadership mindset leads us to start practising new behaviours, and those behaviours feel like they ‘fit’ because they’re borne out of a way of thinking and not a skills model or technique.
The thing about mindset is it’s difficult to build and embed unless there’s a cultural shift in an organization. And that’s where L&D and HR come in. It’s in your power to introduce a strategy of developing a leadership mindset. First of all in senior staff, and then throughout the whole organization.
Do that and leadership isn’t something we leave to CEOs and senior teams, it’s something that lives and breathes in our organizations.
A leadership mindset is a way of looking at the world. And that worldview informs our attitudes. That attitude translates into behaviours. And those behaviours look a lot like leadership.
Latest posts by Joe Britto (see all)
- How to Grow a Leadership Mindset - October 11, 2017
- Leadership Mindset: Leading in an Age of Disruption - October 4, 2017
- Forget Leadership Skills, We Need Leadership Mindsets - August 8, 2017