There must be structure and a methodology in a leadership coaching relationship if you want to maximize your chances of success. A leadership coach must have a personal organizational structure and a methodology in order to be successful in their own leadership role. And they must be able to communicate that methodology or advocate for one more suited to the client if they are to be a successful leadership coach.
Create an Organizational Context
Writing a guide or creating a framework that essentially cobbles together the best ideas from multiple bestselling business books is not a plan. And it does not do the client nor the organization any good. It would be better to just buy the books and let your client read them. Organizational development needs to focus on how ideas apply to the individual organization in very specific ways: first honing them for general leadership, and then applying those skills to the local organization. Successful organizations with good strategic plans include very prescriptive language about how they differentiate themselves in the market. Leadership training should be an output from the strategic plan. If organizations can’t tie leadership development to furthering the organization’s strategic goals, then that needs to be either dropped or reworked until the right links can be fashioned.
Reconcile Management and Leadership
Many secular organizations create frameworks, competencies, and guides intended to help employees see a broader world beyond their jobs, and to help move them progressively through more responsibility, and hopefully, more pay and benefits. Management is dramatically and fundamentally different from leadership. Most leadership clients that be candidates for some leadership development or coaching will have subordinate staff. They will, at a minimum be surrounded by others that they must continue to “manage” in some form or fashion. Therefore, ensure that leaders know they remain responsible and accountable for their management assignments as well as their influence (leadership).
Don’t Just Talk – DO!
Explanations, case studies, and academic pursuits are well and good, but leadership development isn’t about just studying great leaders. Leadership development should be about putting people into mental situations that stretch their world view, test their mental models, challenge their assumptions, force them to grow and make them practice events that they may not regularly see in their day to day role so that they are prepared for them when they occur in the future.
Leadership is not a list of attributes, it is a way of being and acting. Leaders necessarily reflect certain common attributes among them, and those can be described, but leadership isn’t about reading enough leadership profiles and then suddenly finding oneself transformed into a great leader.
Give Permission to Lead
Leadership, like collaboration, coaching, and other complex concepts require permission from the followers and the coach. Leaders want to lead, but they can’t do so in an organization that won’t follow them. Many times a “reboot” will be required whereby the coach works with the leadership client and the organization in order to more formally grant the permission for them to “try” the leadership development skills that they are acquiring.
You Can’t Just Manufacture Leaders
Leaders can be made. That may be a false assumption that underlies leadership training. I am not so sure that they can be made. Maybe they can get a little better. But, I am not convinced they can be made from nothing. Managers can certainly be taught to work effectively and competently, but leadership tends to be an emergent property, skill, or trait.
People (leaders) with the willingness to risk their careers for what they think is right, be it a policy area or a new product, are rare and valuable. Rather than trying to manufacture leaders organizations would be better off trying to identify them, nurture them and give them the freedom and permission to be leaders.
You Can’t Do It Alone
When an organization decides to start a leadership development program, it’s better to start small. Create a core group of those who are already in leadership roles in their day to day world. This forms the foundation of the support group for the program. A small group can be more effective because each individual adds some attention and time to work with the leadership client. The small group also allows for greater support and connection among the core group which facilitates accountability more naturally.
But You Can Get There Using Multiple Methods
Every client in a leadership training program will come with different ways of learning new concepts, absorbing and sharing information, and seeing the world. Create a multi-faceted approach that brings in the best of all forms of learning, from written materials to in-person conference participation. Make leadership training fun and something that the client can get excited about and find enjoyment and a sense of comfort from familiar delivery methods.
You Must Have Clear Goals and Milestones
Each client who is learning in the leadership development program should have sat down with a mentor to decide on short and long term goals. These should be reflective of the output from some sort of assessment tool at the outset of a potential coaching or leadership development process. So too, there should be a way to measure successes, with regular milestones.
Where Do You Go From Here?
Hearken back to the notion that you cannot do this alone. Neither you as a coach, nor you as the client. Join me in this endeavor. And refer back to my previous article on leadership development where I tackled this all-important aspect – a mentor or an accountability partner to help ensure that you stay on the right leadership track. If you need a mentor, I can help you. If you need a protégé, well, I bet you already know someone who would benefit from spending some time with you. So, go reach out to them and offer to mentor them.