Developing leadership capabilities

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Leadership Training

This case highlights the importance of identifying and developing leadership skills. A four-step cross-training process for developing leadership capabilities is presented. This process moves from skill assessment to skill development. The case discusses the importance of tying these skills to organizational goals.

The ability to develop leadership skills is important in an organizational setting. The identification of different types of skills and how to develop these is discussed. These skills can be related to the five components of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

Read the case below and answer the questions that follow.

Leaders who want to take the next step in their career can follow a straightforward four-step cross-training process. The basic idea behind this cross-training approach is simple yet effective. While the most effective leaders have at least one competency that makes them great and eventually indispensable, it makes little sense to continually work on already great qualities. Instead, leaders can benefit from identifying and developing complementary strengths. Building complementary strengths—or competency companions—may lead to substantially greater leadership effectiveness than finding increasingly rare opportunities to improve an already outstanding competency.

First, leaders must identify their strengths in areas that usually fall into five categories: character, personal capability, getting results, interpersonal skills, and leading change. While this task can be done in multiple ways, it is important to realize that your own view is less important than how others see you, making a 360-degree evaluation the method of choice.

Second, choose a strength to focus on. Most people find it easy to identify weaknesses and focus their attention on improving them. Unless a competency is extremely underdeveloped (i.e., in the 10th percentile), however, it may pay to focus on an already strong yet not outstanding competency. Developing a competency from strong to outstanding often can raise the perceived leadership effectiveness dramatically. However, choosing between multiple strong competencies is easier said than done, because most people lack clear selection criteria. To engage effectively in this process, leaders should focus on a strong competency that is important to the organization. Moreover, leaders should choose a competency they feel passionate about.

Third, select a companion behavior. While developing a great or outstanding competency is an important step on the journey to becoming an indispensable leader, it may increasingly pay to also focus on a mediocre competency that can be developed in an interacting (or complementary) fashion. As before, this companion competency should be valued by the organization and also be something the leader feels passionate about.

Lastly, develop your companion behavior. Once you have settled on an organizationally valued and personally engaging competency, you should now work on improving the basic skills in this area. Practically speaking, you could look for as many opportunities as possible to develop this competency, both inside and outside of work. For instance, you could take courses or practice informally with friends and coworkers. Volunteer to engage in activities that allow you to practice this skill, and ask for continuous feedback.

Extensive research by Zenger Folkman, a leadership development consultancy, provides solid evidence of the benefits of pairing leader attributes. Such findings were based on an analysis of its database of more than a quarter million 360-degree surveys of some 30,000 developing leaders. Take, for example, the competencies “focuses on results” and “builds relationships.” Only 14 percent of leaders who were reasonably strong (that is, scored in the 75th percentile) in focusing on results but less so in building relationships reached the extraordinary leadership level: the 90th percentile in overall leadership effectiveness. Similarly, only 12 percent of those who were reasonably strong in building relationships but less so in focusing on results reached that level. However, when an individual performed well in both categories, something dramatic happened: Fully 72 percent of those in the 75th percentile in both categories reached the 90th percentile on overall leadership effectiveness.

Source: Zenger, J. H., Folkman, J. R., & Edinger, S. K. 2011. Making yourself indispensable. Harvard Business Review, 89(10): 84-92.

What do the authors mean by selecting a companion behavior?

 

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