Over the past few years I have had to, as part of my role, develop leaders and trust me it’s so easy…
Hang on, it’s the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my entire career
I recall running a leadership workshop last summer, tweeting the title of workshop and being asked the question by several people “can leadership be trained?”
For my part I don’t believe that leadership is something you can be trained to do – management is trainable, but not leadership. Which then begs the question ‘are leaders born or made?’ to which my answer is…both, which may appear something of a paradox but it’s not. If you notice, in the first sentence I used the word trained and I do strongly believe that leadership cannot be trained it can however, with the IMHO caveat firmly applied, be developed i.e. helping people to discover the qualities, abilities, confidence, points of view, courage, insight, self awareness, understanding etc, to become the best version of themselves…which in turn may engage people to follow them as leaders…
When faced with having to run a leadership workshop for the first time (some time in the distant murky past) I stood facing 12 people and asked the question “what do you think defines a great leader?”
Having heard the sound of tumbleweed for what felt like forever (in all likelihood I probably only lasted about 20 seconds) I forged on, asked questions to stimulate thought and at the end of a 20 minute bore fest had less than 10 words on a flipchart. To use a twitter expression #epicfail
My failure I believe was due to several factors amongst which were as an out and out extravert not letting people have any time to think about any answer but more significantly to pick a topic so vast and dare I say it over published/discussed/venerated/poorly defined and then to expect people to pick some nuggets out of thin air. Suffice to say the workshop didn’t improve much from there and I went away deflated and introspective….
So having to now deliver it again (some months later) I realised that yes I did want to have a discussion about what the participants considered great leadership. So how was I going to make it work? Easy…give them some time to prepare and some sort of framework to think within (I am in L&D after all!) and then an idea came to me that seemed so simple yet it *may* work…..to ask them all to bring a picture of someone they considered a great leader. As they get stuck on the wall, they get discussed, scrutinised, challenged and understood (and I’m in L&D I write this all on a flipchart)
What has ensued on the many occasions I have used this, in countries as diverse as the UK, US, Hong Kong, China & India, are probably some of the most interesting and enlightening discussions I have had at any point in my role and what’s amazing is the diversity of people that get chosen but more about that another time….
For now, I just share what has come to mind whilst thinking this through:
1. Learn from your mistakes – quickly, but don’t necessarily change your objective just consider different ways of doing it
2. When something isn’t working, get out and move on…
3. Poor workshops are the fault of poor design or delivery NEVER poor participants
4. Apparently it’s OK to consider Captain Kirk (as played by William Shatner) a leader in at least 2 countries!
5. Only 4 people have appeared multiple times (and if you guess I’ll tell you)
And leave you with a question, who do you consider a great leader? And why? (Answers on a postcard, tweet or in the comment box below please)