To summarize what we’ve covered so far – effective leadership creates 3 times the business results of tech skill training and numerous other strategies, creating the biggest payback of any business strategy you can implement. It takes time to become a very good leader – years to reach the ranks of the best, but much less – a year or two perhaps to get solid basic benefits as programs like Google’s Project Oxygen have shown. It’s easier to understand and copy on an individual development level than Toyota’s culture-based systems, Six Sigma, Lean and so forth that are great for organizational evolution, but only if individual leaders, especially at the top, support them.
Leadership is more complex today because it requires more understanding, emotional intelligence and reflection than the former (and still) most common type – command and control. Most people fall into just giving orders because there is very little leadership training especially in North America where there’s a tendency to simply try to buy leaders who seem to have been effective earlier in other places – a formula that works less and less effectively as the changeover to more complex collaborative/team leadership takes hold as most effective. North America has had an overall training advantage due to its general business culture, but that may be fading as more nations implement leadership research that is widely done but not followed here to upgrade their training and support programs.
Three keys stand out. I’m going to reiterate these in this post and the next, because I think we need firm ground to stand on to make a case. First, currently 80% of leaders still adopt the basic, simple style of mainly giving orders that increasingly does not work in the Internet age. Only 20% ‘naturally’ tend to listen and use a more collaborative, engaging style.
Understanding these facts is the motivational key – that we can boost results 300% or more by improving toward the better style of leadership. These stats are widely observed, researched and reported on, but haven’t created much improvement. A related statistic is that about 7% to 15% of people in organizations typically act in some sort of leadership capacity – formally or informally. Since only 20% of those use the more effective style, that equates to only 1% to 3% of all of us being as effective as we could be while there is some reason to believe as many as 60% have the ability.
We may never be able to develop the full 60% of staff into thoughtful leadership behavior, but reaching even 30% or more would be a ten-fold improvement in numbers (and likely would multiply to a far higher proportion of organizations) that are 3 times as effective. While the lack of progress has remained static, the vast opportunity has grown as more people become educated and capable of learning better leadership.
So the question becomes if, as it appears, we can’t easily teach leadership directly, can we find ways to help people develop it? The encouraging answer seems to be yes if one puts together the facts available today, but most people in power need convincing before it will happen widely. There is some progress due to widespread discussion of methods, but so far we haven’t reached a tipping point where anywhere near the majority become believers. That will most certainly come, but it could be a very long time at the current snail’s pace.
What seemingly slows us most is the doubt many people continue to have about whether leaders can be developed. Proof is growing in numerous examples that they can and how they can (Google is only one), but many of today’s leaders seem to prefer not to accept this. We need to try to understand and reverse this situation, but as long as so many of our leaders fall into command-and-control style through lack of prior training, we can expect they will continue to doubt a better form exists and doubt that training in collaboration is worthwhile. If giving orders worked for them, then isn’t that proof their method is best -a fallacy, but hard to dissuade people who hold most of the power in organizations. Among the blind, the one-eyed man is king.