When we think of leaders we might typically think of positional leaders like senior directors, C-suite members, line managers, and team leaders. Leadership is also an ability, skill and knowledge and is part of all individuals capability, and everyone goes about leading in their own way – so how can you know what is your best way of leading, and when and how you might want to develop or flex your skills?
Many leaders will adopt leadership competencies that align with:
Business needs. Does the business need a leader who drives their team in a work hard, play hard mentality? Or do they need a leader who can work independently and manage a team in their own way? The needs of the business are placed heavily on those who are expected to deliver, and leaders will need to adhere to this.
Personality. Although we can adapt ourselves to an extent, our personalities will naturally attract us to certain styles of leadership. When we are able to lead in a way that matches up with our personality, we can create a more genuine style of leadership.
Personal values. Our values shape the way we see the world, and leadership is no exception. Personal values can enhance a leadership style as well, with values such as trust, honesty, and diligence being good things to have both as individuals and leaders.
Engaging with an OD practitioner or organisational psychologist can be of huge benefit to businesses and leaders, as they share their knowledge and practical examples of how to find effective methods of leadership development.
Some businesses advocate the use of leadership models which can be rolled out throughout their whole structure. A popular model is Deloitte’s Leadership Capability Model, also known as the ‘DNA of leadership potential’. This model uses the idea of DNA as the building blocks of life as a way of identifying and assessing potential within leaders. It looks for potential across four areas: People, Motivational, Intellectual, and Change, before combining these ‘scores’ for an overall assessment of capability as a leader.
This model is very popular because it is backed by Deloitte’s extensive database and research conducted by their leading team – and these are certainly good things for looking at when wanting to find out more about how you could support leaders in your organisation. The model relies on the idea that data can assess and assign leadership to people based on an algorithm. But how people respond to surveys is highly contextual and cross-sectional.
The Hay Group, as global recruitment specialists, has another approach to leadership which is popular. Working with David Goleman, six main leadership styles were identified in an extensive study and these have become popular approaches for understanding leadership.
Each of these models is built on several competencies that develop as a leader progresses through the organisation, and can be used to get effective results, but some of them are better suited for short term situations (for example, a commanding approach is perfect for crisis situations or where there is high-pressure and someone needs to take charge quickly).
How OD practitioners and coaching can help
OD practitioners are uniquely placed to help organisations who are looking to advance, develop, restructure or otherwise improve their methods and means of leadership. While employing an existing model such as Deloitte or Hays can be the right solution, many businesses benefit more from tailored, specific approaches and support that can be developed with an OD practitioner. It’s important to find out what values matter to an organisation’s employees in order to find the right way of getting leadership to work for them.
Leadership competencies are essential to any organisation, but what matters more is finding out how people value certain traits and behaviours, and why these matter. Practitioners can help dive into this with research through focus groups, workshops, survey-based feedback, and even one-to-one interviews to discover what all levels of an organisation value when it comes to leadership.
For example, employees in direct manufacture and product supply aren’t necessarily going to value a leader who can tackle long-term strategy as much as they will someone who looks out for their needs and ensures good working conditions. A senior business development team would definitely want someone who has strategy and vision as part of their leadership ideal. Both of these teams would say they value good leadership, but the execution is different in reality.
By involving all levels of the business to share their thoughts on what good leadership looks like, how they would like to be done, and putting the question back to them of how it can be achieved, it is possible to build a cohesive and united vision of leadership that works for all. Practitioners are able to build a portfolio of leadership competencies that apply to the business and work on developing and expanding these within teams and individuals to ensure the best methods of leadership are being used.
With a clear idea of what the business wants to achieve in terms of leadership and how that looks to the organisation, practitioners can start to harness these competencies and get them into action through a development programme. This might include training, coaching, workshops, team-building exercises and continuous feedback into the business, using a 360 model. This type of feedback ensures that everyone has their chance to input, review results, and feedback on results – a complete 360 view is enabled. Transparency like this allows for better leadership to be developed, as by being open to feedback and change, the opportunity for growth is more easily realised. Having everyone involved with a feedback touchpoint builds a sense of inclusion, helping people to feel more involved in business decisions and impart more value into their role.
When we involve individuals, gain their opinion, and help them become part of the identification process for understanding leadership competencies, results are reflected in a more engaged, proactive workforce who feel valued. Calling on them for feedback and listening to their ideas throughout the process also lends a sense of responsibility – their involvement helps shape their own behaviour, so by speaking up they can only help things continue to improve in the right direction. This results in better alignment in the business, tailored, unique leadership approaches and the business functions better as it meets the needs of the teams and employees more efficiently.
By combining a range of diagnostic, behavioural, psychological, strategic and business-orientated approaches, OD practitioners are able to help businesses and leaders optimise their performance, achieve greater results and promote a happier, more effective way of leading, learning and working together.
My own Organizational Development Framework takes into account leadership and how best to help people achieve their full potential for themselves and their organisations, which I build upon with my coaching and consultancy offerings.