Although you will often hear it said that some people are born to lead, this is, in fact, very rarely the case. Indeed, nearly all of the world’s most famous leaders developed their skills over the course of a lifetime, either on the battlefield or in a political struggle.
Whether they led by example or orated in a particular way that struck a chord with their followers, great leaders all have one thing in common – they got better at leading and taking people with them. Of course, some people show some of the characteristics that make for good leadership more than others without much learning. A self-confident approach to life and a realistic view of what is achievable are both good traits to have in the first place. That said, even people who don’t consider themselves to be natural leaders can learn how to improve.
In a sense, every manager is on a journey in which they are understanding how to lead more effectively as they progress through their career. Essentially, leadership learning speeds this process up for middle-managers and hones or refreshes the skills of senior managers. As an organisation, if you are not investing in adequate leadership learning, then your entire management team can be going backwards, something that may lead to disquiet among ordinary staff members as well as drops in productivity. How do high-quality leadership learning programmes help managers become better pacesetters within their respective organisations?
Build better teams
Along with business development training – something which focusses on the areas of an enterprise that need an intervention in order to improve – leadership learning is necessarily concerned with how managers interact with their teams. Of course, team building exercises are well-known as a good way to bring team members together where individuals are not necessarily functioning in a harmonious way.
When managers are engaged with such activities with their teams, too, the usual hierarchical structure can be done away with, albeit temporarily. This allows managers who don’t like to delegate their work to others to build trust in individual staff members as well as the team as a whole. Learning that this is often the best way of getting the best out of a team is a key leadership lesson that can be gained from such exercises.
Leadership training sessions which take managers out of their usual setting and ask them to think about other scenarios allow them to start contemplating what good leadership really requires. All too often, middling executives only think about how their leadership, or lack of it, functions within their current job role. In fact, many corporations and government departments now borrow ideas developed by the military in order to explore leadership concepts without getting bogged down in the ‘here and now’ of a current management situation.
Of course, becoming a better leader does not necessarily mean aping the management style of Wellington, Washington or Bismarck, to name but three individuals. Rather, it means working out how their leadership styles were adapted to the conditions of the day, sometimes under extreme pressure. Crucially, these lessons can then be applied almost immediately in the boardroom once managers return to their usual leadership roles.