5 Steps to Carving a Path & Creating a Leadership Culture

Carving a path and blazing a trail for current and future leaders depends on the company's ability to build an infrastructure and develop strategies that drive and cultivate a standard of performance, develop critical thinkers, encourage creative problem solvers, foster collaboration among peers and direct-reports, and improve adaptability to changing environments.

It is estimated among leadership scholars that 30% of leadership is inheritable, while 70% is developed and the evidence for failures in leadership abound. Several studies which have documented the failure of large firms are attributing it to failures in leadership. Considering the damage done by second-rate leadership, and the possibilities for good in extraordinary leadership, the importance seems obvious, indeed crucial, to invest in developing leadership talent throughout an organization. In a study of leadership derailment within one company, Lombardo, Ruderman, and McCauley (1988) estimate the cost of a single failed leader at $500,000. Leadership is an individual capability. It is about what they do, how they think, and who they are. The acquisition of these skills may be partly dispositional, but much comes through learning from experience, mentoring and coaching the future leader through difficult challenges. From this perspective, improvements in leadership development could be well served through a better understanding of what aspects in performance leaders struggle with and why.

Step 1: Standard for Performance

Setting a standard for performance is an important component to ensuring leaders are in alignment with the company's vision, values and expectations. Anyone in a leadership role has a responsibility to the company, its customers and their people to be a “model” of performance. And here lies one of the challenges companies face are when “sub-cultures” pop up. You may be thinking of an executive as you read this that has cultivated his or her own sub-culture and is way out of alignment with the organization's standards for behavior and performance. If red flags start appearing, this is the time to address the behavior and correct it. The longer it festers the harder it will be to correct.

Step 2: Develop Critical Thinkers

Understanding how short-term or long-term decisions or indecision effect an organization, its departments and those who are impacted is an important component to critical thinking. This can be costly to the company if a Leader makes and executes a “less than” well thought out strategy or plan. The cost of a poorly executed decision is estimated to cost from the low millions to billions. To give you an idea, the implementation of a new initiative needs to get buy-in. Not just from the executive team, but from the managers and/or supervisors that will be implementing the changes and who are directly affected by the fluctuations and challenges that come from change management. For example, if the initiative impacts front line staff and how they execute transactions and communicate new products or services to customers, the supervisor or manager should be a part of the meeting for several reasons:

  1. To ensure they are sharing what's coming down that pipeline to their direct reports
  2. Communicating what kind of training and resources will be needed.
  3. Identifying resources they will need to make the shift a success from the bottom up.

Step 3: Problem Solvers

Problem solving is the essence of what leaders do. As leaders, the goal is to minimize the occurrence of problems – which means we must be courageous enough to tackle them head-on before circumstances force our hand. We must be resilient in our quest to create and sustain momentum for the organization and people we serve. But the reality of the workplace finds us dealing with people that complicate matters with their corporate politicking, self-promotion and power-plays. Silos, lack of budgets and resources, and many other random acts or circumstances also make it more difficult for people to be productive.

A leader must never view a problem as a distraction, but rather as a strategic enabler for continuous improvement and opportunities previously unseen. Opportunities include Transparency, Break-Down Silos, Open-minded People, Collaborative Leadership and A Solid Foundational Strategy.

Effective leaders that are comfortable with problem solving always know how to gather the right people, resources, skills, and knowledge from past experiences. They inspire people to lift their game by making the problem solving process highly collaborative; for them, it's an opportunity to bring people closer together, gain buy-in, and motivate. I've always believed that you don't know the true potential and character of a person until you see the way they solve problems.

Step 4: Collaborators (Business Partner)

As more companies adopt a culture of open innovation, a new style of leadership is emerging. Collaborative leaders take a more open approach in the workplace. Team building and power sharing are replacing the traditional forms of corporate hierarchy. The role of leadership is evolving into a broad based team building approach that encourages creative thought in the workplace. Internal “crowd sourcing” is opening up new paths to corporate growth and in the process, creating a new business model that gives employees more ownership of their work than ever before. The future is most definitely collaborative.

Step 5: Adaptability

Changing times means having leaders who can adapt with the changes and go with the flow. Even more importantly, ensuring our leaders are helping their direct reports adapt to the changing environment. How? By having consistent dialog, carving out time to communicate what changes are coming, how they are affecting roles and responsibilities, and what it means to each key player. Another reason is to squash any fears, threats, perceptions and office gossip to make room for open dialog and make way for others to successfully adapt to the impending change.

How We Can Help?

At Epiphany Consulting we use the skill, will and hill methodology along with 360 evaluations to consider each potential leader's capabilities. We begin by evaluating the individual's skills, talents and experience they bring to the organization. The first areas we assess are their skills to ensure they are in alignment with their current role, responsibilities and future requirements. The will is the leader's drive. We are all motivated by something and it is different for everyone. It's just as important to know what influences the individual to perform, develop, and excel. The hill is the obstacle and what's getting in the way of their ability to learn, develop, or meet their goals and the company's expectations. Once we have clarified all three areas we help the individual move forward by personalizing the coaching process.

To learn more about creating a Leadership Culture, our leadership models and consulting services, contact us at:

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©  Laura Perez Ehrheart | March 31, 2015

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