John Fay MBE, Managing Director of SFL Ltd, looks at the evolution and measurement of leadership development.
Many of us have read about, listened to and participated in the leadership development debate within the industry. It seems though that the key question of getting value from leadership development remains:
“How do we successfully develop individuals with leadership potential to fulfil their promise and impact positively on the business performance?”
There will always be the natural leaders who have been brought up in a leadership environment and almost have it in the blood. However, most of us rely on experience and development before we blossom as leaders. Often the best leaders are not identified early on, but during a particular event or opportunity to lead.
As confidence is derived from knowledge and the application of proven theories and models it is important to understand how leadership development has evolved. First there was trait leadership. This looked at the traits of people and suggested that many leaders are born and not made. Scientific evidence has supported this and a recent US study outlined that up to 43% of leaders are born with these natural abilities.
Trait leadership development involved very little self-awareness and a “welcome to the club” approach. Little attention was paid to human interactions and behaviours with leaders using status, rank, job title and consequent power to get things done. In today’s politically correct environment trait leadership has far fewer places to thrive.
In 1965, John Adair, a Scots Guards officer, developed the Functional Leadership model. This was a natural progression and sought to prove that leaders could actually be trained and supported to carry out tasks effectively. Adair introduced the concept of task, team and individual where the leader would consider the needs of all three components in determining the best way to proceed. He also stated that at any one time one of the components would be more influential than the other two.
Adair’s Functional Leadership model was successful but lacked situational context. It still assumed that leaders would be followed through duty rather than respect. However it was not long before the increase of people power went on to challenge Adair’s theory.
A new theory of leadership was developed that not only allowed leaders to deliver the task but also get the best out of their people. Developed by Paul Hersey, from Ohio University, this was called Situational Leadership and aimed to build on the task, team and individual appreciation and introduced relationship behaviour. This new approach drove leaders to engage in two-way conversations with their individuals and teams, going on to understand inner strengths and motivations. This meant that leaders could combine the situation and task at hand with the state of the individual or team’s readiness to act.
Different leadership styles were required to accommodate this state of mind and so Hersey created the telling, selling, participating and delegating styles of leadership.
Managers were forced out of their offices to engage with their people and use these different styles to meet the needs of the situation. It helped inspire people and make them feel they were important. It built trust in, and some respect for, the leader allowing him or her to target opportunities with greater confidence.
Situational leadership is still commonly taught to give individuals an appreciation of the different styles of leadership. It does not however deal with many of the leadership skills required to support modern day organisations.
Full Range Leadership
In today’s organisations leaders need to look further out in strategic terms and further inside their organisations in terms of delivery to achieve sustainable results. Flatter structures, share price pressure an increasingly fluid employment market and more discerning customers have all made the role of the leader even more pressurised. The need to grow the business and get better than average returns on all forms of investments have put leaders in the spotlight to a greater degree than ever before.
In 1985, to support this increasing need, Bernard M. Bass & Bruce J. Avolio
created the Full Range Leadership model (FRL). FRL fully accepts the trait, functional and situational theories but goes on to identify skills, attitudes and behaviours that support different leadership needs within an organisation. Different phases of an organisation’s evolution require different leadership skills. For example, a business in long-term sales decline with no real vision will need transformational leadership to address not just the immediate issue but to research and sell a longer term strategy. This will require intellectual market place stimulation and plenty of inspirational motivation. Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Anita Roddick all come to mind as transformational leaders continually moving their organisations on to greater success.
On the other hand, a business running smoothly with further organic growth opportunity has a different need for its leaders. This business needs to be more transactional and grow the margins in the business with effective control and targeted performance. FRL also accepts that strong leadership is required in roles where the task is more management by exception where auditing or health and safety requirements are the primary function of the role. FRL also recognises that some leaders are avoidant of their responsibility, so as to provide a measurement for ineffective leadership.
The FRL model has four distinct features.
- It matches leadership types with appropriate skills allowing chief executives to clearly define specific needs for individuals or teams and align development to business objectives.
- It has a 360-degree tool that allows the industry to bridge the gap between development costs and perceived returns - the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire.
- It appears to provide the first all-inclusive glue for leadership development. It can deal with the different needs of the business cycle, all levels and parts of the organisation and be a common platform for personal growth.
- FRL works best when organisations have a sustainable Human Capital strategy that is aligned to the vision. It therefore tends to promote and prove that well-defined targeted investment in people creates significant returns.
To conclude, success in leadership or team development relies on:
- A belief that Human Capital development is a corner stone of sustainable organisational growth.
- Development objectives and tools that are easily understood and align to the vision of the organisation.
- Mature individuals who are ready to take on responsibility.
- Simple, continual and measured activity.
- Transformational leadership in itself.
Organisations short of any one of these will not optimise the returns available from leadership and team development. Even with the best products and processes in the world it is effective and genuine leadership that will help organisations generate and sustain growth.
* John Fay can be contacted at [email protected]