There are some people that want to alter the stigma around the term “bossy” and somehow make it appear as leadership potential. Regardless of gender, the trait of one being bossy is not a characteristic of a true leader. There is a clear distinction between a leader and a manager. A leader is a person that others inspire to emulate and hold in esteem, while a manager is simply a task master. Leaders make those around them perform better and aspire to be the best form of themselves.
Some feel like leadership qualities are naturally attained but people can develop and improve their leadership skills. Some people are naturally more assertive, but that does not necessarily make them good leaders. Others are accomplished but may lack critical people skills to manage subordinates. Good leaders are people who passionate about what they do, can influence the behaviors of others, and seek to make teams better for everyone involved. Too many organizations hope to find good leaders when they need to work on programs to develop them.
Every organization should require new managers and supervisors to read the books written by John Maxwell, who provides useful frameworks of leadership and its different stages. In the book, The Five Level of Leadership, Mr. Maxwell explains how one can go from the basic level of leadership, a person with a title, to evolving to the highest level of leadership, which is organizational icon or pinnacle. The process requires development of functional performance, interpersonal skills, and forward thinking to maximize impact to positively change those around them and the entire organization. Although few may achieve the fifth level, all those lucky enough to gain a leadership can work to improve their ability to influence subordinates and inspire them to be the best versions of themselves.
Many organizations do not provide adequate frameworks or support to adequately develop the additional levels with some personal motivation and outside exposure. Many will need to invest in advancing their education by pursuing an MBA or expanding professional development with leadership seminars. Others may need mentorships, learning how to emulate productive behaviors of leaders they respect and value. For some, a combination of both will be useful. Many organizations do not have internal programs to help bridge the gap. The ones that do tend to be organizations that create leaders for internal needs as well as external entities.
Consider General Electric (GE). Despites its current struggles, the iconic American conglomerate maintained strong leadership and professional development programs, where leaders worked with subordinates to groom future leaders. While the organization typically demonstrates loyalty to the lead person at the helm, candidates for the top spot typically have little trouble finding C-suite opportunities elsewhere. Many organizations emulate the programs that started GE to develop leaders as well.
Why do so many organizations not create effective leaders? Many companies empower people to manage workflows and people around them with little consideration for process and quality. Managers are created simply to fill the need of taskmasters, checking off tasks from to do lists. Productivity and performance are important, but how susceptible is the team to turnover or technological advancement. Stereotypically, a manager is hired based on performance and skill set. Over time, without further development, the manager will struggle to retain talented employees, which may prove to threatening to their career.
Going back to GE, what made them successful for decades was the ability to select strong candidates for leadership opportunities and develop them. Changing how organizations evaluate worker performance to attain a complete picture of value created can help identify true talent. The traditional dogma is performance statistics, but other factors should be considered. Workers who effectively coach others and develop process improvements are ones that should attract the attention of leadership. Provide new challenges and expand their organizational acumen to these employees.
Identifying the right candidates is the first important step. The next step is developing programs that help shape the leadership styles and behaviors of these potential candidates. Potential leaders need to understand what standards their organizational will hold them to. Furthermore, frameworks need to be consistent across the organization, ensuring workers experience equitable opportunities regardless of function. Good leadership development programs can create long-term benefits for both the firm and candidates.
Successful organizations are ones with good leadership structures and create leaders. Struggles with employee retention, satisfaction, and turnover can be resolved by developing workers and affording them opportunity. People want to work for companies that value their contributions. Be that company.