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The Quick Fix - Interpersonal Skills Training
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|Leadership Development - Leadership Styles and Training
What makes a good leader?
Ever since we started Impact Factory, lo these many years ago,
we have struggled with the whole notion of leadership
development or leadership training. Indeed, we have resisted
writing about it in much detail because the subject is so
Are leaders born or made? Can you use management leadership
training to give leadership skills to someone who isn't
leadership material? How is it done?
Given that we're being asked to create a lot more leadership
programmes of late, we decided we'd take a hard look at just
what makes a good leader.
Even of you don't think of yourself as a leader, you will have
areas in your life where other people look to you for
leadership. So here are some essentials qualities and skills you
need to be a good leader in whatever leadership arena you're in.
Training is a misnomer when applied to leadership. Any
leadership development programme has to include at least a
passing reference to the following
Introduction to the concept of leadership behaviours Discussion
and debate about leadership A widening of the definition beyond
traditional leadership stereotypes Personal understanding of
individual leadership qualities and strengths The difference
between leadership and management A look at how people perceive,
their perception is their reality Assumptions and their effect
on how people see the world What are your terms of reference and
seeing the bigger picture Personal patterns and beliefs A look
at the elements that have influenced and shaped the participants
Establishing ownership of individual's leadership behaviours
A programme needs to be designed around the development of the
individuals involved rather than towards competencies identified
as required by the organisation.
What does a leader look like?
No cookie cutter models here. Everyone can develop their
capacity to lead, from church committees to local pressure
groups to business teams to political parties. When someone is
committed to, and practises using their leadership capabilities
at all levels in their life, then they can and will develop
their own potential as a leader.
There is a tendency, in our Western culture, to see Leadership
as synonymous with white, middle class, male, in charge. There's
a kind of unspoken template of what leadership is supposed to
look like. Now we know that isn't true. Leadership can and does
come in many different shapes and forms.
Good leaders don't conform to a template. Indeed, leaders are
people who don't usually follow the party line. They have an
edge to them, they get up people's noses sometimes, they make
decisions - lots of them - that often others don't like. They
say the things that need saying in a way that others understand.
Don't let the picture get in the way
However, it is important to acknowledge that people developing
their leadership skills are often hampered by their picture (or
other people's picture) of what a leader is supposed to 'look'
This is when it's important to understand that the role of
leader is not only completely individual (remember, they don't
fit a mould!) but also has to be worked at with belief and will
and determination by the person occupying it.
It's different for everyone
Not only that, leaders will be experienced differently by the
individual people they lead. One getting encouragement, another
understanding. That, of course, will be due to the leader's
ability to see what each person needs (more on this later).
In addition, not every leader is going to be a great leader in
the sense that the world around them acknowledges their leader
status. Many leaders get no 'public' recognition, only their
personal satisfaction of a job well done.
Seeing the Big Picture Vision
When the 'vision' word is used it usually means that someone has
an idea of what the future could look like and a plan to get
there. No point painting rosy, pie in the sky pictures ('we'll
double our turnover in a year; we'll create international
markets; we'll be number one in the UK', etc.) if pie in the sky
is all they are.
More like, 'we could double our turnover in a year, this is how
we could get there, this is what I expect from everyone in the
organisation to help us get there and any new ideas are welcome'.
The ability to see
There is one essential quality for anyone in any position of
leadership: the ability to see what is going on. Seeing is
clarity. Seeing in the 'wood for the trees' kind of way.
We've heard the following phrase from a number of people
throughout the years and it's a good one - get your attention
off yourself and on to whatever is going on.
What you'll see
Here's what you'll be able to see if you do that: you'll be able
to see things from other people's points of view; you'll be able
to understand what's going on for them. You'll be able to see
what other people are capable of and how to help them achieve
it. Most importantly, you'll be able to see the whole picture
not just your little bit of it.
What makes you tick?
Know thyself. To be able to see you need a clear understanding
of what has made you the way you are and what has shaped and
influenced your life. The clearer you are about what motivates
and affects your behaviour, the clearer you will be able to see
what is going on with other people.
You didn't spring fully formed from Zeus's head - many things
have affected you over the years. A good leader is proud to
acknowledge role models, people, places, things, etc, which have
You can't do it alone
Any good leader worth their salt should be able to name 100
people, places, things, right off the bat. Why? Because they
know themselves well enough to acknowledge who has supported and
inspired them along the way, and what support they still need to
get things done.
Think about what qualities your role models have that are
attractive to you, that make them inspiring. Now, putting aside
modesty, false or otherwise, think about what qualities they
have that you also have. You have to know who you are and accept
you have outstanding qualities - leaders are able to do
Beliefs, rules and patterns
How well do you understand the rules, beliefs and patterns you
have created in your life so far? Everyone's got 'em.
They can be the simple kind of rule - you should brush your
teeth twice a day. They can be the more complex kind - you
should treat everyone the way you expect to be treated. Beliefs
can be things like - I believe everyone should be fair. And
patterns can be as simple as going to and from work the same way
When identifying your rules, patterns and beliefs see if you can
avoid putting a value judgement on whether they are good or bad;
this is far more about seeing just how well you understand your
Moving things forward Innovative thinking
Leadership requires innovative thinking; it requires people
making positive and inspiring impacts; and it requires them to
be able to motivate others. What is needed is an ability to
think and act 'out of the box'; out of the accepted or 'right'
ways of doing things.
The culture of tomorrow will be one where change and innovation
are the order of the day. Out of the box thinking and
identifying future needs go hand in hand.
There's no such thing as 'can't do'
'Can't do' is an alien concept to a real leader. Leaders get
things done. They have commitment, persistence, determination
and resilience. Couple all of that with creative problem-solving
and you have a person things happen around.
What we mean, is that no matter what their personality, there
will be a kind of buzz around them; things change when they're
around; indeed, things might even get shaken up when they're
around. It isn't always comfortable being around leaders.
You can't stay stuck
Along with a 'can do' attitude, is an ability to move things
forward. When others get bogged down, good leaders know how to
motivate and inspire the people around them. They are willing to
take risks and stand up for what they believe. They want to get
things done and bring people along with them.
Can training develop leadership skills?
In our view, you cannot 'send' someone on a leadership programme
who doesn't want to be there and expect them to become a leader.
It's not like the reluctant presenter who gets sent along to a
course and finds out that it's not so bad after all. If your
prospective leader isn't fully engaged in the process, sending
them along to be 'taught' leadership skills will be a waste of
time and money.
If you fall into that category, then no amount of leadership
training is going to develop your skills.
However, if you have to step into a new leadership role, or
there are greater expectations of how you manage people, or
you've become a project leader, and you have a willingness to
develop and take on new skills, then it's really possible to
give yourself a leadership boost. Everyone can develop their
capacity to lead, from church committees to local pressure
groups to business teams to political parties. When you are
committed to, and practise using your leadership capabilities at
all levels in your life, then you can and will develop your own
potential as a leader.
We believe there is a real difference between management and
leadership. You don't need to be a leader to be able to manage
other people. However, to be an outstanding manager, you do have
to have some of those essential skills and qualities that are
necessary in developing as a leader.
Even if you are a manager with no major aspirations of
leadership, there will be people who will turn to you for
leadership, whether you like it or not. Therefore, when looking
for training to develop your skills, it might be a very good
idea to look at leadership courses as well as management courses.
There are scores of courses available calling themselves
Leadership Training, Leadership Development, Leadership Skills,
etc. We cannot judge just how good they are, but if you think
about everything you've read so far and feel in synch with our
sentiments, then that's what you need to look for: courses that
incorporate a clear approach to developing leadership skills.
Earlier in this document we outlined some of the things to look
for in a Leadership Training Programme. Add to that list a few
How to initiate leadership behaviours Understanding how
commitment works Leading by example Influencing skills
Empowering and motivating others Thinking on your feet Handling
yours and others' stress
In our view, really good leadership courses need to incorporate
all of these elements to be truly effective. Equally important,
a programme needs to be relevant to your specific leadership
needs and not something off the peg.
This is why Impact Factory only delivers tailored leadership
training; so that each and every course fits the organisation to
Expect the unusual, the quirky, the non-conformist, the doer,
the inspirer and you've got yourself a leader. To become one or
to develop your leadership skills you have to be fully engaged
in the process of development and just like everyone else, you
have to practise, practise, practise.
Key Learning Points:
The power of aligning personal motivation and business
objectives The capacity of strong well expressed beliefs to
motivate others Communication is far more than just words
Leadership is not just about getting people to do what you ask
It is far more about seeing what is needed and carrying people
forward with your vision Being able to create the impact you
want Expanding your spheres of influence Being able to talk to
people in terms they understand Using appropriate language The
relevance, development and use of personal style Putting across
concepts and ideas with ease and flair The value of creative
risk-taking and "out of the box" thinking Making sure projects
move forward without having to do all the work yourself.
About the author:
Jo Ellen and Robin run Impact Factory who provide Leadership Training and
Development, Public Speaking Presentation Skills,
Communications Training and Executive Coaching for Individuals.