I’ve been thinking about what makes effective leaders stand out. At a bare minimum, leaders must fulfill three promises in the areas of:
The 4th Promise: To Lead Effectively
The fourth promise is to lead effectively, to maintain trust to achieve and sustain desired results. What, exactly, does “lead effectively” mean?
The first three promises are more tangible: the transactional competencies universally taught in business schools and leadership training courses. The fourth promise is another matter altogether: more difficult to undertake, yet capable of profoundly influencing all other competencies.
Effective leaders pursue personal and professional development opportunities to improve their competence, self-awareness and other-relatedness. They grow in ways that are transformative, not just transactional.
We expect our leaders to be wise and evolve continually. In fact, we raise the bar every year. Without a commitment to enhancing personal and professional development, leaders can easily lose their competitive advantage. They fumble when trying to drive their people and companies to excellence.
When leaders balk at coaching, training and ongoing learning, they cannot meet the increasing demands of today’s business environment, and they fail to deliver on the first three promises. In a word, they stagnate. Perhaps leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith puts it best: “What got you here won’t get you there.”
“Leadership development must proceed at a pace consistent with what it takes to stay effective and relevant in today’s complex, rapidly changing business environment.” ~ Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams, Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results (Wiley, 2015)
Growing a company requires leaders to commit to personal progress. Executive coaching has proved to be one of the most effective leadership development tactics. A large body of evidence shows a positive return on investment from coaching. Even conservative measures estimate an average return of five to seven times the cost of coaching.
A CEO’s developmental stage significantly determines the success of large-scale corporate transformation programs. Leaders cannot sustain 21st-century effectiveness without continually upgrading their competencies, coping strategies and capacity to influence others.
The Urgent Priority Leaders Don’t Have Time For
Yet, few leaders regularly set priorities for professional growth. Even those engaged in executive-coaching relationships struggle to keep appointments to do the work. Like many of us, they’re so mired in day-to-day challenges that they fail to think long term or take actions that may not have immediate payoffs.
If you’re unable to work on identified gaps in self-awareness, core strength and coping skills, you’re not just standing still; you’re regressing.
Beware of Blind Spots
Every leader falters at some point: when under stress, with a fine-line ethical dilemma or with a delicate choice between right and more right. You’ll inevitably make a wrong decision. You probably won’t see it coming until it’s too late. When you realize what’s happened, you’ll know you’re in a blind spot, and you’ll recognize it because it’s been with you a long time.
If you recoil at the idea of coaching, training or other personal-growth tools, you’re creating conditions for failure. You’re breaking all four leadership promises that so many others expect you to keep.
Effective leaders know they cannot afford to stand still. The pace of business will eventually exceed their capacity to handle new challenges. In today’s fast-paced, constantly changing, complex marketplace, no leader can expect that “what got me here will get me there.”