Why You Should Invest in Leadership Development: A Q&A with Steve Gladis
By: Stephanie Berkowitz, President & CEO at Northern Virginia Family Service
Organizations rely on many things to be successful. A key component to a successful operation is its leaders. Human capital is the No. 1 challenge CEOs face, according to the Association of Talent Management, and many focus on bolstering leadership development through managerial, supervisory and executive development focuses.
Investing successfully in leadership development requires an understanding in leadership competencies. We asked executive coach and author Steve Gladis to share his insights about leadership and developing talent to help guide companies that may be looking to deepen their leadership development investment.
What does great leadership look like?
Great leadership takes many forms. At its best form, it makes people feel trusted, empowered and safe. When leaders can create that in people, they tend to get the best out of them. Typically leaders are known for three things: character, competence, and caring. Together they make a triangle.
You have to have all three of these to be successful. More often leaders trip over the last leg of that triangle. You may have good character and competence, but you may not care. If you don’t have strength in all three, the triangle will collapse.
Is there a core set of skills that are essential for success?
At the top of that list is listening. Don’t suck up all the oxygen in the room. The second skill is humility. This is the ability to not think you’re the smartest one in the room. The third skill is perseverance. These are the qualities I would look for in a leader. If you search, you’ll find a lot of research to back this up.
How do you identify emerging leaders in an organization?
Everyone moves on. Therefore, it is the duty of all leaders to create new leaders. One way to get to new leaders is to sit down and learn about your employees’ strengths. Find out what they want to do with these strengths.
It is the duty of all leaders to create new leaders.
From there, I would keep giving those people additional responsibilities and see if they rise to the occasion. The people who tend to step up and want more responsibility become my leader pool. These are people who don’t shy away from responsibility and who are thoughtful. Many opportunities will arise but not everyone will step up.
Also be careful not to pick the loudest in the room or those who are the most extroverted. Some of the best leaders in the world are introverts. You have to remember that introverts don’t raise their hand quickly. They don’t try to stand out. If leaders are listening and watching their employees perform in their strengths area, what emerges are the best people.
What’s the difference between leadership and management?
People have been messing around with those terms forever. Some people say that leaders lead people and managers manage things. That’s crap. Leadership is a more modern term. It used to be management science, and now it is leadership science.
Personally I don’t segregate those two. Leadership has become a more hip term. I think they are really the same thing. If you’re a manager of a restaurant, you’re leading people while also managing the restaurant. I think most leadership coaches would say that it is just a term that has changed.
Is there a difference between a leader and a boss?
A boss has a command-and-control sense to it. I think that’s an old term. The other is coaching. With the labels, bosses take all the credit and dump on your head. Leaders will push you forward. It’s really a good leader versus bad leader. The term boss dates back 20-30 years. If you were trying to show respect, you used that term.
If there is a drought in leadership development, how can companies start to rethink their operations? Or are there benefits they can start to look at to develop different leaders in their company?
Look at the actions of the CEO. People watch what you do, so be the leader you want to see in your company. When there is a crappy job to do on the weekend, you show up. There is nothing worse than having a team working on a crappy project at breakneck speed and see the leader clock out at 5.
Leaders don’t realize the power they have. Everything they say and do matters. How they say it is magnified. Leaders don’t just have voices they have megaphones. Be the leader you want to find in your company.
People watch what you do, so be the leader you want to see in your company.
Company after company, you’ll see people morph into the key personality of the CEO or leaders. People will exemplify leadership’s behavior. If you see a CEO acting like a bully towards customers or partners, it should be no surprise that people in the organization look like bullies.
It’s important to create a safe place for people to make mistakes and try new things. For instance, in government, there is a zero-tolerance policy for failure. Nothing changes, and no one takes any chances. They keep doing what works until it becomes obsolete. Then nothing works. It’s a slow boat to China. It’s a way to fail.
Lastly, develop some kind of training program, however minimal. GE spends over $1 billion a year training people. All the major companies in the world spend a piece of their budget training people. They know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you don’t try to develop new leaders, your company will eventually dry up and fail.
In the end, leadership starts with developing and retaining talent within our organizations, and must be a priority. In order for NVFS to continue providing top-tier human services for the next 90 years, we must nurture our internal talent. If this sounds similar to my last post, you’re right. Part of what makes NVFS great is our emphasis on our people. Growing a competent and experienced workforce goes hand in hand with building a great culture and an even better organization.
Cultivating our own talent makes us stronger. As Steve mentioned, we seek first to listen and discover our employees’ passions and strengths. The process itself engenders goodwill, loyalty and improves overall engagement. Our people are watching. By showing we want to invest in them, they choose to invest in us. Together, we will continue to invest in the families and individuals that seek our help, thereby strengthening Northern Virginia for everyone.
Join us at the CARE Awards breakfast on Nov. 18 at the Falls Church Marriott Fairview Park as we spotlight companies who are exercising leadership development and other important business practices into their organizations to create a work environment that thrives on success and engagement.