Simon Popley and Kim Winter
Leaders working in demanding roles tend to get little or no time to develop their own leadership ability. Focused on getting the job done and developing their own people, their own leadership growth often goes by the wayside. Australians work some of the longest working hours in the developed world, a study has found. About one in five Australians, or two million people, work more than 50 hours a week, the University of Sydney study shows, and many in the logistics and supply chain sector routinely work more than 60 hours a week.
“The lack of investment – of both time and money – is at odds with a plethora of evidence that indicates the magnitude of potential returns.”
Another trap that limits leadership development is under-investment in the area by corporations. Research by Australia’s leading human performance technology specialist DTS International found that more than one in five companies (21%) have no leadership programs at all, while 36% of organisations are yet to establish a leadership development strategy. Only 58% of organisations spend more than US$1,000 per learner on training for senior leaders, compared to just 39% for high potentials and 32% for mid-level management.
The lack of investment – of both time and money – is at odds with a plethora of evidence that indicates the magnitude of potential returns. For example, a recent report by the Human Capital Institute states that organisations that allot more than 31% of annual training and development budgets to leadership development are 12% more likely to report increased revenue.
Train to survive
However, under-investment in leadership development isn’t just a missed opportunity, it’s a major threat to a company’s long-term success. The fact of the matter is – when your leadership gets stale, so do results and the teams and leaders working with you. Everything becomes an effort and leadership feels like it’s sucking your will to live, rather than energising you and lifting up your people.
The fallout of neglecting your own leadership development is that you only have the same old skills, experiences and advice to hand down to your leaders and teams. It becomes a bit like leadership beans on toast, each and every night. After a while, the people to whom you serve your leadership learnings get bored and stop hearing the messages you want them to hear.
Your messaging is experienced as bland and your followers begin to feel that you have nothing new to offer or inspire them with. Preaching career development to them also invites hypocrisy that further diminishes your own leadership standing. This is demonstrated by the fact that only 7% of senior leadership in an international survey by Deloitte finds themselves capable of developing ‘millennial’ leaders, signalling an impending leadership vacuum.
“The most fruitful outcome is when your own leadership style becomes an example for others.”
Here are a few practical ideas to assist you in developing some new thinking and raise the energy to revive your leadership.
Tips for revitalising your leadership
- Set time aside to think about your current leadership – getting time to think about what changes you need and want to make is crucial. You may need to improve your ability to delegate work to be able to create this space to think: remember, thinking is working!
- Ask for feedback from your direct leader and other leaders in your business – what areas do they see in which you need to develop further? What is it they most notice about your leadership? Feedback is the fertile soil in which great leadership grows, without feedback we cannot grow. Feedback can also be hard to process and deal with if you are unfamiliar with getting feedback – think about working with a coach to navigate this journey.
- Discuss taking on new leadership challenges. Take on leading a new team or project. Get involved in a different work experience that takes you outside of your current comfort zone. If you are beginning to feel the slight discomfort of being outside of your familiar way of leading, you are probably beginning to grow – this is good pain!
- Read some latest thinking and research in leadership development. Read something about leadership you would not usually look at, and share this with another leader.
- Develop your ability to reflect on your own leadership experiences. Consider reflective journaling as a means to develop greater insight into your own leadership practice from viewing situations from multiple perspectives. Learn to become comfortable with the ambiguity that leading creates.
- Find and join a leadership community of practice – build your own leadership network. The CEO Institute in Australia also organises various networking events, such as the CEO Connect Conference and the CEO Institute Summit that feature top industry leaders. Chief Executive Women is specifically geared towards empowering women through leadership networks that aim to close the gender gap in senior leadership roles across Oceania.
- Attends events and conferences that are specifically geared towards leadership development, that offer the opportunity to learn directly and network with inspiring leaders in your field and beyond. A good example is the Annual Leadership Summits organised by the Australian Institute of Management across the country. Logistics Executive Group, an Australia-based international talent management and executive coaching firm, also organises year-round networking events, including a CEO Breakfast Series and the international LogiSYM Conference Series.
- Undertake some coach training to become a better-skilled coaching leader so that you are more effectively able to develop the potential of your own people.
- Find yourself a qualified and experienced coach and begin a conversation about how to grow and develop your leadership capability.
Regardless of your seniority level and the nature of your organisation, effective leadership is necessary for your success, as well as the success of your team and your stakeholders. Therefore you cannot afford to let your leadership style get stale. Yes, it takes some time and some sweat, some investment on your behalf as well as your organisation and perhaps even the odd tear or two, but the reward is well worth the effort.
The most fruitful outcome is when your own leadership style becomes an example for others. This stimulates a domino effect as your mentees, peers and even seniors attempt to emulate your strategy and foster creative, productive and effective leadership across the organisation. Be the change you wish to be, as Gandhi said. The power rests with you.
Simon Popley is senior partner, leadership and coaching, and Kim Winter is the global CEO of the Logistics Executive Group. The Logistics Executive Group is celebrating its 20th Anniversary of talent acquisition, development and deploying bespoke leadership programs from their offices throughout Australia, Asia, India and Dubai. Contact Simon Popley at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kim Winter on +61 411 883 368, email email@example.com.