Leadership Development Isnt A Budget Item

Leadership development isn’t a budget item or a checklist, it’s a culture.

Wally Bock had a great post about this Wall Street Journal Article; Leadership Training Gains Urgency Amid Stronger Economy In it Wally compares creating urgency for developing leaders to someone planting tomato seeds at 4:00 in order to have tomatoes for dinner at 6:00. It just ain’t going to happen.

Leadership development takes time. You can’t just make it happen.

I have held “leadership” positions with at least 5 different companies. Not once during the interview did someone ask me what my leadership style was. Never was I grilled on how I develop people. Never once did anyone inquire about my leadership tools. None of the companies shared with me their definition of leadership and the required leadership skills they expect in their leaders. In only a few cases was their any discussion of leadership at all. I believe this is prevalent because most companies treat leadership development like a checkbox.

Most of my interviews have instead centered around my industry expertise, my knowledge of the products, the customers, and my contacts.

Most companies look at leadership development as a check box or budget item. They budget for leadership training, throw it over to HR and send folks to random training courses and declare their commitment to leadership.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work this way.

Leadership development isn’t a budget line item or training courses but a culture.

Companies with a leadership culture do the following:

1) Define leadership for the entire company
2) Have stated leadership behaviors and expectations
3) Create leadership identification programs based on their definition of leadership and their expected leadership behaviors
4) Hire and promote based on leadership first and knowledge (product, industry, company, customer) second.
5) Evaluate all managers on their succession plans and track record for developing leaders.
6) Continually create new leadership tools and methodologies
7) Have flexible environments allowing budding leaders to easily move throughout the organization, preventing pigeonholing and dead end positions.
8 ) Have reward and recognition programs celebrating the right leadership behaviors.
9) Provide on going leadership training an development
10) Have mentor programs

Most of things on this list don’t cost a dime. They are absolutely free.  Yet, few companies embrace them.

Because a strong leadership culture costs very little it’s recession proof.   Yes the training costs money, but it doesn’t cost anything to provide mentors.  It doesn’t cost anything to have a leadership identification program.   Real leadership programs, the ones that don’t focus on the training checkbox, don’t have to worry about hard times on the horizon.  They’re ready, with the leadership poised to tackle the challenge.

Take leadership development out of the list category and put it into the culture category.   Define it, hire for it, fire for it, reward for it, promote for it, and get out of the way.

You can’t create a leaders overnight.

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