I love this LinkedIn post from Marshall Goldsmith, entitled “#1 Sign Someone Isn’t a Great Leader”. Marshall Goldsmith is one of the real gurus in leadership development in this country.
Marshall calls it the arrogance of looking down the organization chart and saying “fix those people down there”. Sometimes when I hear this, I will say “what about you and your direct reports?” Too often the answer I get back is “Don’t worry about us; we’re fine”. And guess what the participants in the leadership development efforts often say? You guessed it: “How come our senior leaders are getting this development? They need it even worse than we do”.
The implication is “I already know this leadership stuff”. The fact is, none of us already know all the “leadership stuff”. Every leader is (or should be) continually learning more about leadership. All leaders are career-long learners. And the leadership you learned 10 years ago (not to mention 20 or 30) isn’t good enough any more. The workplace has changed. A lot.
Leadership by example.
Marshall also makes an important point about leadership by example. If senior leadership develops itself, so will other leaders below them on the organization chart. If senior leaders look down the organization and say “develop those people down there”, other leaders follow that example, and no one improves.
The literature is clear. When leaders develop themselves as leaders, the people they lead see this, and are inclined to develop themselves too. Remember, leaders: the people you lead pay more attention to what you say and do (and don’t say and don’t do) than you realize. This is another such example.