Are You Willing To Try A New Approach To Leadership Development?

Back in my PepsiCo days, leadership development was applied using annual Individual Management Development Planning (IMD). Leadership skills were self-assessed and evaluated by one’s boss, and approved by his/her boss. Pepsi followed GE’s approach by terminating (the exact label was: “Move Out”) the bottom 10%, promoting or transferring the top 10% and developing the middle.

There were a number of determining factors that led to the success of the IMD.

  1. The willingness to try new approaches
  2. The motivation of the manager,
  3. The safety the manager feels when trying new approaches, and
  4. Determining what success looked like

In this post I’ll address the first point.

Willingness To Try A New Approach To Leadership Development

Leadership is stressful. Great results are critical. If a manager is getting great results coercing subordinates, why would s/he ever want to change? Using coercion works. Managers get bigger bonuses and accolades from senior management.

Unfortunately these managers create dissonance. Dissonance, in its original music sense, describes an unpleasant, harsh sound; in both musical and human terms, dissonance refers to a lack of harmony. Dissonant leadership produces groups that feel emotionally discordant, in which people have a sense of being continually off-key. 1

The manager learns to use a stick because it works! Their commanding style is very effective. As these managers grow, they start using incentives. Classic carrot and stick approach. This approach has its limits too. Often, the manager’s next approach is applying expertise. However, in the absence of trust and respect the expert style will only take the manager so far.

Use the Right Stick!

The trick is to use the right stick: a conductor’s baton. As an orchestra plays and the conductor leads they create resonance. The orchestra needs a conductor. The conductor needs an orchestra. The conductor is leading but not playing any instrument. S/he may in fact not be able to play any of the instruments. His/her expertise is leading. The orchestra and the conductor are functioning as one. In this case they create beautiful music. The principle is collaboration. Collaboration in the workplace leads to better long term results and happier employees! This is often referred to as referent power.

Referent power is gained by a leader who has strong interpersonal relationship skills. Referent power, as an aspect of personal power, becomes particularly important as organizational leadership is increasingly about collaboration and influence rather than command and control.2

The leader’s job is to identify the desired outcome, align the team on the right path and model the right behavior. Oversimplified I know. There is a lot more to achieving great results using referent power. I would suggest this begins with self-awareness, and applying the most critical attribute of the emotionally intelligent – empathy. I use the EQ-i 2.0 emotional intelligence assessment. For more on this emotional intelligence, check out this tag on my blog.

I’ll discuss motivation in my next post. Until then, be well.

  1. Primal Leadership, page 21
  2. LINK


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