Become A Better Leader

June 27, 2018

The war for talent is being fought daily by every CEO regardless of the size, age or mission of the organization. This battle will not be ending soon regardless of how much the digital transformation automates work that was once done by humans.

 

People have been, and will always be, the most valuable resource of a company.

 

However, most of the leaders responsible for attracting, developing and retaining the talent required for teams to thrive during times of change have been given leadership  positions because they were good workers, been with the company a long time or are a family member of the founder. They were not promoted to leadership because of their talent and training on how to bring out the best in people or for their expertise at getting the five generations of workers in the workforce today to act as one high-performance team.

 

I don't think any of us would want to fly in a plane, be operated on or have our house built by individuals who received the amount of training most leaders get before they're assigned the responsibility of helping others do their best work every day.

 

It's no wonder the SHRM Survey on Employee Experience as a Business Driver found that 93% of leaders say they need leadership coaching. It should also come as no surprise that Gallup's 2018 State of American Workforce found that only 21% of employees say they are managed in a way that motivates them to excel, 67% say they are disengaged at work, and 51% say they are looking for new jobs. The Herman Group also discovered that 75% of those employees who voluntarily leave their jobs say they're not pursuing other interests or chasing more money---they're escaping poor leadership.

 

If you're a leader with direct reports or a parent with kids at home, I encourage you to reflect on the impact of the data I just shared and make a commitment today to become a better leader this week than you were last week. I'm not suggesting you're not a good leader now. I just want to challenge you to do something every day to get better at the people side of your job. The co-workers and children you lead and love will benefit if you make the effort to master the art of leadership.

 

The Latin word magister (teacher) is the root for our English word "master."

 

The idea of mastering an art is having the ability to teach that art and pass on what the master learned to the next generation. "Mastery" of something (from playing the piano to practicing law to leading a team) means having extensive knowledge of the art and consistently demonstrating superior skills when performing it.

 

Throughout the Middle Ages, master craftsmen would take on an apprentice (a "learner") who would study and work under the master in order to learn the trade. After a few years of learning, the apprentice would become a Journeyman and then receive more extensive training and greater responsibilities on their "Journey" to be a master.

 

Now here's the big difference between the Leaders of today and the Masters during the Medieval Times...while Masters still worked on their craft, their number one priority was to train Apprentices and Journeymen. Their ultimate goal was not merely to get good work done, but to be skillful and wise enough to train the next generation on how to do the work the right way.

 

Most leaders today are like player coaches. They have a responsibility for developing their people and a desire to help them grow, but most of their time is invested in closing business and solving problems...not developing the talent on their team.

 

It's also important to note that in the 16th Century, most journeymen never became masters. Today, senior executives often take their best sales people and make them sales managers, or take someone with remarkable technical skills and put them in charge of a department without making sure those people have the skill and will to lead.

 

If you're leading now and want to become a better leader in the future, I don't think you can do it alone. You will need to find a coach or mentor who can teach you and hold you accountable to do the practice required to master our craft. No one ever learned to ride a bike by reading a book on balance or by attending a leadership lecture. Adults don't learn by reading or talking about skills. They learn by practicing and getting immediate feedback. Knowledge is important; it's just not enough for leaders to improve their ability to engage and inspire others to do their best work.

 

You may not be ready or have the time it takes right now to invest in being a better leader. However, if you do want to get better, make a list today of the people in your life that you could ask for help. Contact someone in your training department and ask them to work with you for a month. Call a leader you know and respect and ask them to mentor you for a specific period of time. Most successful leaders would be honored to have someone like you ask for their guidance and support.

 

 

Being a leader in the workplace, family or community is an enormous responsibility and privilege. I believe nothing you will ever do will be more important or rewarding than helping other people excel and then teaching what you've learned to the next generation of leaders or parents.

 

Let's Get Better. Together!

Bill Durkin

 

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