The Importance of Remembering in Leadership Development

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Leadership Development is as much about remembering as it is about new skills and capabilities

Every manager and leader faces a difficult moment in their career when they need to make the transition from being a subject matter expert, who is in control of their function through direction and ‘Doing’, to ‘Being’ a leader who multiplies their impact through others by developing the skills and capacities to be highly influential in a complex environment. This transition requires new ways of thinking and, specifically, a way of being that can be both developed and also remembered.

Over the past 12 years we have enjoyed the privilege of facilitating learning with over 7,000 leaders and managers who have attended our development programs and workshops.  The discoveries and outputs from these discussions and a particular reflective exercise provides the backdrop to this article.

We to invite you to participate in a reflective exercise similar to the one we have run hundreds of times:

Bring to mind the most effective leaders you have personally experienced in the past or indeed you are currently working with. With them in mind please consider the attributes, behaviours and skills they displayed and made them a great leader for you.

Please capture the words and phrases that come to mind and compare them to our findings….

Some of the most common attributes, behaviours and skills people tell us they value are:

  • Trust and trustworthiness – they trust me to do what is necessary and are trustworthy themselves;
  • They have an uncanny ability to listen to understand and be open to my perspectives and ideas;
  • Are champions of my personal development, seeking ways for me to grow and learn;
  • In a positive way continuously challenged me to grow and take on new opportunities that stretched me;
  • Genuinely cared for me as a person and my well being;
  • Sought opportunities to give me wider organisational exposure;
  • Created the environment for me to be at my best, to learn and to develop;
  • Gave me regular feedback for improvement and more importantly caught me doing things well too;
  • Found many opportunities to Coach me rather than being in command and control mode, inviting me to discover my own opportunities, solutions and resources;
  • Set a clear vision and ensured that I fully understood what my role was in achieving our aims
  • Created, agreed and communicated a clear psychological contract with clear messages and expectations;
  • Have a positive outlook always looking for new ideas and creative ways to improve our collective and individual performance;
  • Are a role model by walking their talk and being authentic about who they are;
  • Truly valued difference and diversity engaging in new ideas and perspectives with genuine interest and enthusiasm.

Do you notice that what we truly value in our leaders relates less to functional competence than it does to being a human being? We value leaders who fully understand that delivery of the mission depends on the quality of their relationships and ability to influence superb engagement and performance from their people.

Considering your own leadership effectiveness, how are you doing against the criteria you value in your leaders or the factors we have outlined above?

It seems to us that when we get promoted into a leadership or management role we suffer from amnesia and forget what we truly appreciate and value in the leaders we follow. What would it be like if we simply reflected on these criteria? If we remembered what it was like to be lead well and when we were lead badly?  With this remembering we can start to spend time in the shoes of the people who choose to follow us and consider what we would have liked from our leaders and start to build the habits and practices that we valued in those leaders we admire.

I invite you to engage in two reflective practices:

  1. Reflect and capture your own thoughts on how you are doing against the criteria you remember were effective for you
  2. At the end of each day, take 5 minutes to reflect on what you did well against these criteria and what would make it better tomorrow.

I suggest you will be astounded at the progress you will make if you made this a regular practice and implemented the ideas you discovered. I would like to hear your ideas about this article and the invitation that I have made, please do get in contact if you would like to discuss any thoughts arising.

Frans Campher

Frans Campher is a seasoned executive coach, trainer and facilitator with extensive knowledge of global markets, business practices and protocols. In bringing over 30 years of senior executive experience to his practice he has worked with CEOs, managing directors, senior executives, leaders and partners in national, international and global organisations, in both the public and private sector.

His client list includes major corporate organisations such as Anglo American, BP, Biogen, Citibank,  Deloitte, Dell, Ford Europe, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, GlaxoSmithKline, ICON, Johnson & Johnson, Red Hat, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander.

Through his work, Frans brings practical thinking, tools and processes to complex and challenging scenarios. Typically, the results for his clients and their teams are three-fold: clarity about what success is and means to them; a greater sense of themselves as leaders; and the ability to achieve even better results through others.

Frans has been a member of Associate Faculty at Imperial College Business School for three years. He has been an integral part of many programmes for Executive Education, facilitating learning & speaking on subjects such as authentic leadership, adaptive & agile leadership and leader as coach for clients such as Mace, Laing O’Rourke and the Edwardian Hotels group. He has also facilitated learning on these subjects for the Imperial College Business School and Surrey University Executive MBA programs.

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