TEDx Talk – Key Messages

Why leadership development is failing to develop leaders

I was privileged to be invited to be one of the speakers at the inaugural event for TEDx Chichester in October 2017 – here is the video and highlights of the 12 key messages.

(1) Leadership development does not develop leaders.

(2) We need to be much clearer in our vocabulary and interpretation – leadership is a process – leaders are people.

(3) If leadership is a process … then leadership development is surely the development of processes.

(4) You can teach a process but you build capacity in people.

(5) We need to do things differently if we want to build capacity within our leaders – we need to stop focusing on developing leadership (the process) and put a much greater emphasis on developing leaders (the people).

(6) We can have all the leadership processes in place but it is how people behave that distinguishes their ability to be effective and have an impact as a leader – we need to focus on teaching them how to behave – we need to start teaching them to BE leaders.

(7) This approach needs a new regime – a new type of development with a new vocabulary and terminology – think of it as a fitness campaign for developing leaders.

(8) Let’s think of it as working 3 groups of muscles … challenge / choice / change muscles.

(9) Challenge muscles – these are there to develop an identity, a mindset and raise your self-awareness. They are worked by firstly forming a clear identity of what it means to be a leader and then using this as your reference to keep checking through continuous self-reflection.

Working these muscles internally … see yourself as a leader – accept that you have the power and motivation to work your leader muscles (like any fitness regime – nobody else can do it for you) – have the belief that you are a leader – once you have this identity – be able to define exactly how you are behaving at any given point of time – recognise how this feels – match and measure this against your identity of how a leader should behave.

Working these same muscles externally … understand how your behaviour will be perceived and the impact it will have on others – anticipate how others (followers) will respond – be clear about the outcome you are likely to get.

So by flexing your “challenge” muscles you know how you measure up to your own internal identity as a leader à you start recognising your own strengths to maintain à you identify the opportunities for development and have the clarity to know precisely what behaviour needs to be the focus for your future development as a leader.

(10) Choice muscles – these muscles are there to help you build flexibility in your behaviour. They are worked through exercising self-regulation à where you make a conscious decision about how you will behave in any given situation. The difficulty is how do you self regulate if you don’t know the range of behaviours available for you to select and choose from? So these are the muscles you really need to work on and keep developing – this is the heavy lifting aspect of learning to be a leader where you need to learn different techniques and strategies to increase your behavioural flexibility.

(11) Change muscles – these muscles are there to help you self-lead. It is all very well having a clear identity and wide range of behavioural choice available but if you don’t take action then you are not going to have any impact as a leader. By working your “change” muscles you take responsibility for leading yourself – you align your identity with your behaviour – exercising these muscles is about turning up and owning the actions you take.

(12) So there we have it … a whole body and mind workout for developing leaders. As I have already said, this is not a one-off event that can happen through a training course, reading a book or watching a YouTube video. Situations and circumstances are changing all the time and leaders need to work and flex all these muscle groups in each different situation they face – there will be occasions when they fail but they will learn from these mistakes to broaden their repertoire, learn and choose different ways of behaving in the future.