For leadership development to really have an impact, leaders need to act as role models for the types of behaviour they want to see from their managers. I often deliver workshops for new middle and junior managers.  I enjoy working with these groups as they are fresh, interested and enthusiastic.  We are often engaged as part of a wider leadership development programme and brought in as experts to focus on Change Leadership skills.

Have our leaders been through this training?

Much of the training we deliver looks at leadership and which behaviours define great leaders in times of change.  One question I’m repeatedly asked is “have our leaders been through this training?”. The question is an interesting one and often, after further probing, the delegates tell me that they rarely have role models for these behaviours in their own leadership teams (to be clear, these are basic behaviours linked to communication, engagement and authentic leadership).

How can this be?  How can the leaders in the organisation be sponsoring this type of leadership development without fully understanding (and therefore not role-modelling) the behaviour changes their managers are being asked to demonstrate?

Leaders operating by a different set of behaviours stifles behavioural change

Even when this feedback is passed back to the organisation, the significance of these comments is not always understood.  Is it that senior managers are oblivious to their own limitations and blind spots and believe that they “know this stuff already” or that they feel that they are expected to operate by a different set of behaviours from the rest of the organisation’s management?  Is it that Learning Development and Human Resources professionals are playing down the need for senior sponsorship and role-modelling, or are they not prepared to challenge senior managers to be part of the learning process? Either way, it reinforces to me the importance of ensuring that these types of intervention are not only sponsored from a resource basis (i.e. time and money).

If senior leaders are going to underwrite these interventions, they need to fully understand the implications from a perspective of becoming leader role models, and fully immerse themselves in the learning process themselves.