What does leadership mean to you?

Ask these questions before you start developing leaders.

By Declan Noone


You can find a multitude of definitions for leadership just by using Google.  Some may resonate with you, others may not. However, what is the benefit to you in doing so? When I enter Leadership in the search parameters for books on Amazon I get 200,000 results. Wonderful!! I am spoiled for choice, but with so many options I will have difficulty identifying one that best suits me.


Let’s place this in the context of organisations planning their leadership development programs.  The market has multiple service providers specifically orientated towards the leadership development field. Consequently, choice is not a concern. In fact, too much choice can lead to an ad–hoc approach when acquiring leadership development services. An organisation that adopts such an approach can end up with multiple providers delivering leadership development experiences that may be at odds with each other or the culture and values of the organisation.


To avoid such issues, we recommend that all organisations at the planning stage ask themselves these 4 questions:


  1. What does leadership mean to you?


Start the conversation by asking that simple question. Developing this definition/vision encourages both a very frank, as well as, aspirational discussion within the senior echelons of an organisation. By asking the members of the executive team to answer in their own words what leadership means to them, you get a fantastic insight into the alternative personal interpretations that each member has for leadership based on experience, culture, biases, gender, etc. Furthermore, it allows you to identify where there is both convergence and divergence of views.


  1. What is expected from a leader?


The next step is to identify what is expected from a leader in your organisation from 3 specific perspectives: (a) Organisation – what does it expect the leader to deliver, develop, create and build and where is it expecting the leader to have an impact and an influence; (b) People – what type of interpersonal dynamic, workplace culture, professional development relationship are employees expecting from their leaders; (c) Personal – from a personal and professional development perspective what are current leaders within the organisation expecting for their own development.


  1. What are the challenges faced by a leader?


This question is not just specific to the here and now, but also focused on the immediate to short term future. Identifying and understanding the challenges leaders will face within your business over the coming years both from an industry, societal, and organisational perspective helps place context and perspective on the environment you (both as an organisation and a workforce) will expect a leader to deliver on the items you listed in question 2. Therefore, the significance of what is expected to be delivered (by multiple sources), and in a rapidly changing context, can be truly appreciated.


  1. Therefore, what skills will our leaders need to………


You now understand the expectations and the challenges which a leader will have to deal with. Consequently, you can identify the skills that a leader in your organisation will require into the future. Beyond the technical skills, what is the depth of knowledge and understanding a future leader in our organisation will need regarding organisational and culture development, positive psychology, design, team dynamics, communication, etc.



Finally, with all 4 questions answered you can place all the answers you have in the melting pot and encourage a constructive discussion around defining what a leader is in your organisation. Our leader is …………………………………….


Armed with a clearly defined definition of a leader; an understanding of what is expected from a leader within your organisation; appreciating what challenges they will face; and equipped with a list of skills they require; your leadership development program can now specifically target providers they feel best represent the culture/value of the organisation as much as provide the appropriate training and executive education.


In Serrano 99, we work with our clients to provide the right training and intervention, targeted to the right audience, in a generative manner. This is why our focus is on ‘co-creation’. For our positive and mindful leadership programmes to have a continued and sustained impact we always work with those closest to the coal face (at all levels), to extract their knowledge and insights, and use them to infuse our leadership development programs with the right material, at the right time, for the right audience.

Posted on February 1, 2018 in Insights, Positive Leadership

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