No person is the same. We aren’t meant to be. That would be very boring. So why do so many companies try and develop their leaders into the image of what the company thinks is a good leader? Why do they insist they come out of a program or training speaking the same leadership jargon and mimicking the same ideal image of a leader? Often, it’s someone at the top who has decided what this “toy” leader is supposed to look like and sets the tone. What’s the result when this happens? How do you think those leaders do? Are they successful? Are they happy? Do they stick around? How does the company do?
I invite you to think of your ideal team. It could be a sports team or maybe an orchestra. If you are missing parts of these things, the whole cannot work. You cannot play football without a keeper and your concerto won’t sound even close to as good without your trumpets.
Developing your leaders should be the same as that orchestra, it should take care and attention for each individual, so they can find their own music. You can give every person the same tools, lessons and opportunities but you should also encourage them to use what they have been given in the way that suits their own development.
We are so lucky to have the chance to help transform so many great leaders. Some have been leaders for decades and some are new to this type of team leadership (but I would hazard to guess have been showing leadership skills for many years). Do you know what we see most often as measures for success in the best of these leaders? The leaders who embrace their development, find their own music and develop all of themselves, not just the corporate/professional side. These leaders are the ones who learn the beauty of all the players and connect with their peers as part of their own development.
We even use the same mindset when we design our programs. We bring together the best people who play different roles, positions and even instruments to make our leadership journeys transformative for each individual. We know that the very smart (and cool) people who we partner with are the best to inspire our participants and help them find their own way. Together, it’s the farthest thing from a leader factory. Our programs have and will change entire corporate cultures but not because the toy leaders are marching to the same beat but because they find their own complimentary rhythm and the music that they make together is magic.
Authored by Emily Koolen, Transformative Change Agent at GAIA Insights, Authentic-Leader-in-Training