The skills that make someone a good leader are often the same skills that make them a better citizen. So the impact of any people manager can be felt well beyond the workplace. We just need to look at recent examples of leadership failures to realise that, as a profession, we need to improve the standards of management and leadership everywhere – and that requires continuous development.
Often when we talk about ongoing development, we think of the education and training elements. However, these days, continuous development relies on a more holistic view. It’s less about sitting in a classroom or on a training course for a distinct and finite period. Rather it’s a mindset that sees leaders and future leaders committed to continuous improvement.
And leadership development should absolutely be a continuous process for the individual manager and leader. Here’s why:
We manage processes but lead people
Often people become managers based on technical knowledge, what we at the Institute like to call ‘accidental managers’. A classic example that comes to my mind is a sales manager at Hewlett-Packard in the UK. He was an exceptional technical specialist (with sales as his specialised subject) and yet an absolutely dreadful manager. The thing was, it wasn’t really his issue at all. He did his absolute best with the skills and attributes he had. And these skills and attributes had served him very well as an individual contributing salesperson. But as a leader, they didn’t serve him – or the team he led – at all well.
While having a sound grasp of the discipline you are managing can be useful, relying solely on technical expertise – whether it’s accounting, sales, marketing, HR or anything else – is to leave leadership to chance. And when things are left to chance accidents happen.
We can’t afford to fall behind
There’s no denying that the world of work is becoming increasingly complex. Our continuous awakening as a society has rendered some business practices obsolete. We went from cubicles to open spaces, tall to flat organisation structures and nine-to-five to flexible working within just a few decades. We can be confident that more change will come.
For example, leaders today are warned against the danger of neglecting their own mental and emotional wellbeing when in times past management was viewed as somewhat a mechanical process. It’s all changed for the better, and good leaders can’t afford to fall behind, in their perspectives, decisions and actions.
That is why it’s vital to continually seek out ways to learn how you can adapt your leadership to suit the ever-changing environment.
We must continue to broaden our leadership thinking
The great thing about not confining your continuous development options to just education and training is that you are exposed to a broader set of ideas.
Networking is an extremely valuable element in the professional development of leaders. Ideas and concepts are rarely any good when kept in isolation. They’re not much better when you only preach those ideas to the choir, so to speak. But hearing the varied views from a network of peers can really propel ideas, open opportunities or increase your knowledge, awareness or curiosity for things you might never have been exposed to otherwise.
Whilst leadership development might include accredited education programs and short, online or classroom basis training, but it mustn’t stop there. Let it include mentoring, networking, resilience planning, mental and physical self-care, and using self-analysis tools. There are as many learning options as there are lessons to be learned.
If you intend on becoming a better leader, then commit to continuously developing your leadership skills and attributes. This is what turns good leaders into great ones.
David Pich is the CEO of IML ANZ, the professional body for managers and leaders and one of oldest and most respected associations across Australia and New Zealand. Find out more at managersandleaders.com.au.