Saturday, June 20, 2009

Leaders Develop Leaders

I found this post on Tom Peters blog. Tom has contributed much to the study of management and leadership alongside Peter Drucker. I really like this post. It is a great reminder to all leaders that it is not all about you. If you are focused only on you, you are missing what being a leader is all about. I started thinking back to all the leaders I have dealt with both good and bad, and this simple habit was a clear differentiators between the two. The good leaders ensured that those below them were becoming better people and they contributed all they could to that practice. The poor leaders were more concerned with what their subordinates or players could do for them. What kind of leader do you want to be?

In New Delhi a couple of weeks ago, I had a general in the Indian Army in the front row. I don't recall the details, but evaluating senior officers for promotion came up. I ventured, boldly, that there "was one issue that stood head and shoulders above the rest."

Namely: What is this candidate's track record—in exacting detail—in developing people. Though hardly locked in concrete, I posited that "the ONE question" might go something like this:

"In the last year [3 years, current job], name the three people whose growth you've most contributed to. Please explain in some significant detail where each was at the beginning of the year, where he or she is today, and where each is heading in the next 12 and 24 and 60 months. Please explain your development strategy in each case. Please tell me your biggest development disappointment this past year—looking back, could you or would you have done anything differently? Please tell me about your greatest development triumph—and disaster—in the last ten years. What are the 'three big things' you've learned about 'people development' along the way."

As I see it, it's not the boss' role, for instance, to make strategy. It's the boss's role to develop the best strategist—and the boss's role to ensure that the process thereof is moving along rapidly and imaginatively. And so on.

Finally, as I see it, this in some form applies to pretty much every promotion. And it even has a bearing on evaluating a non-manager on a 3-month project. That rather junior person will, for example, in several instances be responsible for accomplishing a milestone—and to do so, she must engage her team members, and engage them in a way that they go away with some learnings—that contribute a bit to their development.

What do you think about this riff?

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