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We Need More Leaders

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Jeremy Segrott // cc by 2.0 //

If you look around the conference table of directors and realize that not one person can be promoted to an executive/leader role, you are probably correct. Most organizations have too many managers and not enough leaders. We all need to develop new markets, new channels, new products and new services - but managers cannot help with these goals. Managers are focused on today - not tomorrow - no matter their titles. We need more leaders.

Achieving long-term goals requires focus, risk-taking and change.  Too often, managers fear risk-taking and change because it requires learning, implementation time, and potential failure. Leaders do not fear mistakes. They “fail fast” and move forward. They reframe failure as continuous learning and continuous improvement. Successful organizations are those that tolerate risk in order to achieve change, implement new strategies and roll out new services and products. If your organization is not changing, it is falling behind. We need more leaders.

People follow positive leaders because they share a compelling vision of the future. Leadership is about inspiring others to produce desirable outcomes not because they have to, but because they want to. This vision attracts the imaginations, discretionary efforts and commitment of staff at all levels. We need more leaders.

Competition from new and old competitors, high tech and low tech disruptors--and even “onesie” consultants--means that we must thoroughly understand our clients’ needs and move swiftly to solve their problems. Our organizational structures and legacy products solve the problems of the past—not the challenges of today or tomorrow. We need new approaches. We need new ideas. We need more leaders.

Leader development is not cheap, fast or easy—but it is more effective than “buying” leadership from another organization or even another industry. “Importing” new leaders guarantees a longer ramp up to productivity, many cultural miscues, and faster turnover. We need more leaders.

Building leaders is an organizational competency that must be continuously improved to ensure ROI. Successful organizations use a variety of approaches to invite, inspire, instill, inculcate and innovate leadership among their ranks. These techniques include alignment to the business strategy, evaluation and measurement of outcomes, involvement of stakeholders, engagement of participants through experiences, and required new skill application. We need more leaders.

Achieving different financial results requires a leader development strategy. Every organization is facing the “5/50 crisis”: the likelihood of losing 50 percent of leadership talent over the next five years due to marketplace realities, retirement plans and general workforce demographics. In some professions, the percentage of anticipated loss is even higher. The specter is real: developing managers for top executive roles often takes ten years of carefully choreographed developmental assignments. But along the way, your managers will be transformed into leaders who use new behaviors, new skills, new ideas, and new processes to push the organization toward its goals.

We need more leaders.

*Originally posted November 9 on Inside Indiana Business

Nancy S. Ahlrichs

Nancy S. Ahlrichs Nancy is an expert in organizational development, intergenerational communication and management, employee engagement and productivity, and managing Generations X and Y.

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