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Twenty years ago the accumulation of skills, knowledge and experience (‘horizontal development’) was sufficient for business success. Today, it’s not. 4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development, offers a new approach of ‘vertical development’.See Other Books
I once led a two-year development programme for ten high potential leaders at a major car company. To be accepted on to the programme at all was tough; a rigorous five stage selection process weeded out those who said they wanted to develop from those few who were committed to doing so. By the time we began the programme, the people on the course were talented, experienced and eager to develop.
I began the entire programme by asking the great Goffey and Jones question: Why should anyone be led by you? Being such a talented lot they had their answers prepared: “I get the work done”; “I am a team player”; “I think long term”. And then the classic, “I am authentic”. Everyone nodded sagely as we agreed that being authentic was the base line of 21st Century leadership.
Then I asked, “But what are you being authentic to?”
One answered, “Me. I am being authentic to me…”
“So who are you? What is the point of you? What is your purpose?”
“Because if you don’t know who you are, what your purpose is, how can you be authentic to yourself?”
This was a significant moment for all of the people on the programme. As they found answers to this question, the high flyers truly began to develop rather than just acquire new skills. They uncovered why they wanted to lead, what truly motivated them to make a difference to their teams and their organisation. They realised that they need not be ‘cookie-cutter’ versions of a management template but the best versions of themselves.
The experience of this highflying crowd is not unusual. If we ask almost any leader to articulate their own specific purpose, or reason for existence, they will often respond by describing their job, their role in the business or say something about supporting their family. None of these are really purpose. Purpose is more to do with the guiding theme of one’s life. The benefits of discovering our purpose are many – from clarifying daily tasks to maintaining motivation, from giving meaning to commercial activity and prioritising activities.
But perhaps the most important benefit is that we can truly be an authentic leader … and avoid that cookie-cutter cliché.
For more on leadership, check out Dr Alan Watkins’ book, 4D Leadership: Competitive advantage through vertical leadership development.