A key factor in high-performing organisations, effective leaders inspire and motivate their teams to achieve common goals, foster a positive company culture and drive business growth, in the delivery of business performance outcomes. Given the importance of such leadership, it’s not surprising that many businesses invest in development programmes to improve their leaders’ skills. However, what is surprising is that many of these same businesses are shy about promoting their commitment to effective leadership development, and their efforts in first understanding what leadership skills are important.
In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this conundrum and why businesses should be more vocal about the steps they’re taking to ensure continual improvement in the effectiveness of their leadership teams.
From our experience at Blackmore Four, one of the reasons that businesses are not more vocal about the fact they invest in leadership development is that they’ve not always seen the return on that investment. This is usually because they’ve missed the essential first step of really understanding what the specific leadership needs are, and so any subsequent intervention is misaligned with the performance outcomes required.
This issue aside, the conundrum might then be explained by several psychological factors:
- There may be a culture of humility which can lead businesses to downplay their leadership development efforts.
- There is a fear of being perceived as weak or underperforming. Businesses and leaders worry that by promoting their actions towards developing effective leadership, they will highlight that they have had challenges or problems within the organisation.
- There is a lack of understanding about how to promote leadership development effectively. Many businesses may not know how to communicate their efforts in a way that is both genuine and valuable.
Fear of Self-Promotion
A reason why organisations can be shy about promoting their leadership development efforts is fear of self-promotion. Businesses may worry that if they draw attention to their leadership development programmes, they will be perceived as arrogant or boastful.
However, there are ways to overcome this fear. One way is to focus on the benefits that effective leadership brings to the organisation. Effective leaders drive performance outcomes through business growth, improved employee morale and fostering a positive company culture. By promoting leadership development as a means to achieving these benefits, businesses can avoid coming across as merely self-promoting.
Fear of Mistakes
Whilst we might assume that the leaders in partnership firms, for example, are full of ego and self-confidence, what’s being presented is not necessarily the reality. There can still be a level of self-doubt or ‘imposter syndrome’; an element of ‘I made it, I clearly do a good job, but my ability to lead and run this organisation is questionable. I don’t want people to find out about that.’
That fear factor is built up in people’s minds largely because of how leadership as a topic is presented to them. And if, as a leader, you’re afraid to make mistakes—or to be seen to make mistakes—and so only do things that you know you’re really good at, then other people will follow that same pattern. That’s a robotic way of operating, and creates a culture where people just do the things they’re programmed to do, rather than doing things that are necessary for the business.
By its very nature, leadership is about human relationships (which are complicated). It’s about accepting that none of us are perfect, and that there is no right or wrong answer. Having effective relationships with other people is something we can all improve on. That’s a matter of fact, and not a matter of ego.
Leadership as a Competitive Advantage
Instead of believing that it makes them look weak if they talk about developing effective leadership, another reason businesses should be more vocal is that investing in great leadership confers a competitive advantage. In today’s highly dynamic business environments, companies need to attract and retain the best talent to succeed. By communicating their investment in effective leadership, and promoting the steps taken to ensure this succeeds, businesses can attract top talent who are looking for opportunities where they can be confident they will be supported to grow and develop their leadership skills.
In addition, rather than highlighting weakness, promoting the organisation’s leadership development actions signals to employees and customers alike that they are committed to listening to feedback, adjusting where necessary and fostering a culture where self-awareness and continual improvement are highly valued.
As an example, our client Rickard Luckin is a forward-thinking organisation that not only cares about its clients, but is also passionate about its values. The company is recognised as being one of the best to work for in the East of England*. Clearly then, they already have a strong leadership team. But they wanted to make sure there was sufficient leadership capability in place to fuel the firm’s future development and growth. So we’ve worked with them to ensure they have a framework with which to identify the right skills and capabilities needed to achieve their desired performance outcomes, which also nurtures their brand reputation.
Shouting About It
Whilst the fear of being self-promoting can appear as a barrier, it is of course perfectly possible to highlight the positives of leadership development with warmth and humility. Leveraging social media platforms provides an ideal opportunity for businesses to showcase their leadership development efforts and build rapport with their audience in a personal and engaging way, sharing lessons learned, problems solved and outcomes achieved.
Thought leadership content and case studies that highlight the journey can also be useful in establishing the company as an attractive—and successful—place to work and do business with.
Ultimately, effective leadership is essential for the continued success of any organisation, and while there may be a cultural expectation of humility in leadership, businesses that do invest in understanding their leadership needs and improving the effectiveness of their leaders should not be shy about promoting such efforts.
Blackmore Four are an independent consulting company, offering specialist advice, leadership insight and tailored solutions to businesses looking to improve business performance. Our approach is based on a deep understanding of human behaviour at work and an ability to identify and address the specific leadership and organisational development needs of your business.
If you would like to talk to us about the ways that we can support you in assessing and developing the leadership capabilities in your business, contact us here or call 07734 920 222