“Quand tu veux construire un bateau, ne commence pas par rassembler du bois, couper des planches et distribuer du travail, mais reveille au sein des hommes le désir de la mer grande et large”.
This is a quote by the famous French author, writer, and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. When translated into English, it means, “When you want to build a ship, do not start with gathering wood, cutting the boards and assigning work; instead kindle the desire in men, to explore the vastness and greatness of the sea.” Don’t you think this quote beautifully sums up how a leader should be?
In successful organizations, leaders don’t start by allocating resources and assigning work to individuals. Instead, they begin by sharing the vision of the organization and the purpose behind that vision and empower team members to work out the path toward achieving the vision.
So, what are the other skills required by a leader?
You might have heard the story about Tom Watson Jr., who served as CEO of IBM between 1956 and 1971. It is said that one junior executive made some bad decisions that resulted in huge losses for the company. The young executive was expecting to be fired, but on the contrary, Watson simply said, “we have just spent a couple of million dollars educating you.” A leader understands that failure is a stepping stone to success and does not reprimand his team for trying if it does not work.
Leaders understand and bring out the best from their teams. They guide, inspire, and motivate their team members to find innovative solutions to organizational problems. I came across the ‘Business and Industry’ website page of Queensland Government, Australia. They, very methodically listed down the skills expected of a successful leader and I thought we could very well use the list to go through the typical skills needed for good leaders. Here they are.
- Guide and lead the team
- Active listening
- Body language awareness
- Learn new skills
- Analytical skills
- Quick comprehension
- Decision making
- Open and flexible attitude
- Technological trends
- Organizational skills
- Setting expectations
- Delegating tasks
- Fixing deadlines
- Evaluating alternatives
Some exhibit a natural flair for some of these but not all are that lucky. Others, like me, have to work towards developing these skills on their own. Here is where successful organizations pitch in. They provide the resources and tools for employees to develop their leadership skills.
How do organizations train a large number of employees on these skills?
Organizations adopt several methods to train employees on these skills. Traditionally, in organizations, potential leaders were often coached and mentored by seniors so that they are competent to take on leadership positions. Large organizations identified potential leaders and conducted tailor-made workshop and training programs in addition to coaching and mentorship efforts.
However, organizations have grown bigger. Businesses have grown bigger. Number of leaders required has increased. Leadership development programs are no longer confined to a limited number of participants. So, how do you effectively train and nurture a large number of leaders within the organization?
While organizations still can organize leadership training programs, they need not confine learning opportunities only during these training programs. They can make such opportunities available to potential leaders at all times using technology.
Given below are some of the ways organizations can support their employees to develop each of these skills.
Create motivational videos:
Have you seen TED videos? They are short – usually around 15-20 minutes, but they have a clear and inspiring message. We could create such short videos, which share the experiences and challenges faced by leaders in the organization and provide ideas on how to overcome them. Making videos of talks by Industry experts, senior leaders in the organization, or leading personalities can also be a good idea. In fact, the videos can be even shorter – around 5 minutes so that they can be easily accessed via mobile devices.
Online modules to build communication skills:
Communication is key to the success of a leader. It is an art as well as a science. It is said that our communication based on vocabulary is 7%, on voice inflections is 37% and on nonverbal behavior is 55%. Lessons in communication, therefore, are best shared through scenarios and case studies. Short online modules covering one or two aspects of communication per module can be created. For example, one of the key aspects of communication is active listening. Modules can be developed to encourage active listening among participants. Short dialogues between two individuals or a monologue can be played followed by an activity to test the attentiveness of the participant with questions, such as a short interactive quiz to enable participants to test how attentive they were when listening.
Learning opportunities through planned e-learning curriculum and collaborative platform:
Often, employees are so caught up with day-to-day work pressures that they find it hard to devote time for knowledge enhancement and self-development. We can create curriculum for potential leaders to provide insights and experiences on leadership matters in the context of their jobs. Experiential learning is possible in an online environment through the simulation of real-life experiences.
Real-life organizational problems can be shared as case studies and participants can be encouraged to share their experiences in an online platform where suggestions and views of each other can be shared and seen easily in real time. Responding to problems and offering solutions develop analytical skills, and sharing with peers and understanding their viewpoints subtly develop acceptability and adaptability in the participants. Many universities are also providing online leadership training programs and cues can be taken from them to create a customized program for organizations as well.
Leadership development cannot be a one-of activity that takes place for a week. It needs to be an ongoing effort, and technology can provide good options in the form of creating online courses, providing an online platform to host the courses and facilitate peer-to-peer interaction, mentoring and guidance on an ongoing basis.