Leaders and followers training together
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent some time working with a regular client. They are an innovative and creative mid-sized company based over three countries.
While the training was very much focused on how they engage with their clients, one thing in particular struck me about what a great company they are. the range of people on the course.
The small group consisted of one person with “Executive” at the end of their job title, who had been in the organisation for ten months, as well as someone with “C” at the beginning of the theirs and who had been there for many years.
While the training wasn’t designed for a specific management level, I was surprised when I learned how senior that one participant was. The training itself was incredibly successful and the dynamics within the group open, free and courageous. The C-level employee told me how she had pushed to get on the course. She was trying to balance her desire to learn and improve while not taking a valuable place on a small and intensive learning experience really aimed at lower levels.
Leadership and culture
This desire to learn, this acceptance of the need to push oneself and the courage to “fail” in front of her colleagues and reports reveals a lot about the type of company they are. To my mind it is reflected in the quality of the work they produce.
It seems to me that this a really vital part of good leadership: the courage to fail in front of those you lead. The courage to say,I have areas for improvement too and I’m happy for you to see them. The energy and passion of people in the company that is evident to see, I believe, comes in large part from this dynamic.
I recently had a meeting with another client. They are a large multinational going through radical and significant change. While the structural differences in the two organisations make comparison unfair one thing really stuck out for me. The change being driven by the top is not being lived by them as well. This is hardly new or surprising but it does reinforce the need for leaders to accept and acknowledge that they too struggle with change.
By embracing the new and accepting that we find things hard, showing that while we don’t have all the answers we are happy to keep asking questions (of ourselves), I believe leaders show themselves to be as human as the people they lead.
Beating the path
Ultimately what this C-level participant was showing was that she had the desire to change her behaviours to make her more successful. It is this willingness to change behaviours, to do things in a different way that helps others believe in the direction the leader wants to go in. Without that, as in the other organisation I mention above, change is just perceived as something other people are expected to do.
If leadership is about leading the way, then as a leader, you’ve got to be prepared to tread the path for others to walk on, not just plan the route.