Paper boats in a line

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a friend about leadership. He started by asking me how I thought leadership should be defined. What is leadership? What is a leader? I’ve heard many definitions – some rather thought-provoking and some rather laughable. Either way, one thing is quite clear – for a leader to lead, he/she must have followers, or perhaps, from a leadership development point of view – successors.

It was around then when I came across a Harvard Business Publishing “Tip of the Day”, and while it was a short article, it struck a chord with me.

In management or any leadership role, be it in a corporate or community environment, succession planning or leadership succession has often been a bugbear. Many organisations – large and small – have even disappeared into oblivion because of poor or non-existent succession plans. We’ve often heard that a hallmark of effective leadership would be for the organisation to be able to continue flourishing after they leave. That would be a leader’s legacy.

How do you plan for something that is in the future with so many factors that are out of your control? Well, we can focus on what we can influence and control.

One of the factors would be the development of the people who you think can succeed you. Hence the shift to people development from succession planning. This is something that sits close to my heart because it has to do with human resource development, or a word I prefer, human capital development – nurturing or developing talent.

This raises the next question – how do we go about developing people? They are so varied, and perhaps they are different from who or what I am. To me, that’s where a tool like the Emergenetics Profile comes into play. It helps a person understand the filters in which he/she mentors, and it helps the recipient of that mentoring understand how he/she can be different and utilise innate strengths to excel in areas which may be different from the predecessor. You need not develop a successor in your own image and likeness. It’s easier to do so, of course, which is why many leaders end up picking people who are similar to succeed them.

To me, while there are many factors we need to consider when we are trying to groom a successor, for example opportunities, experience, support, skill and knowledge transference, etc., one of the most important would be to understand how this person is motivated. In the end, he/she must WANT to be developed.

Again, here is where a personality test or a psychometric tool can play a part not just in motivation or effective communication in the workplace, but eventually, in impacting staff retention. How often have we heard that the main reason why people leave their jobs is because of their immediate boss – just search “number one reason why people leave jobs” and you’ll see the long list. And part of that reason is that bosses simply do not understand how best to motivate their subordinates.

Motivation and people development may be simple concepts, but it is oh-so-difficult to even come close to being good at either – I’m glad that in today’s world, we have the science and technology to help us along in the complex business of understanding and motivating human beings.


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