Another Wake Up Call

As everybody knows I am really invested in this whole leadership thing. I don’t personally believe that leaders are born rather than taught. Some may have attributes that lend themselves to becoming effective leaders, but I think that real leadership is taught, practiced, and reinforced.

It is interesting for all the money we spend annually how much we still miss the mark.

I read a blog post this week that indicated that a survey of new MBA graduates indicated they felt the most important attribute they had to offer their current or potential employer is their leadership capabilities. My immediate thought was WTF. Luckily it turned out I wasn’t deluded those same current and potential employers said umm no to these shiny new MBA’s. First you must learn to do, then maybe you can learn to lead.

 A classic leadership fail plastered all over the internet this week was the behavior (antics) of the Uber CEO. That was a great demonstration of what happens when you have poor leadership and don’t take time to create and reinforce the culture you desire. He wasn’t alone, looks like Jared’s, Kay Jewelers, and some others have some work to do as well.

I had a chance to read a couple of blog posts as well about one of my other pet rants- the ineffectiveness of HR in most organizations. Both were incredibly well written by women I respect. Maybe the fact that today is International Women’s Day is a cosmic intervention.

The first was why the author, Michelle Berg, “hates” HR. To cut to the chase it is because in her opinion in most organizations HR is the attempt to put a band aid on a hemorrhage, to create handbooks and policies to make up for what she poetically calls shitty leadership.

The other post from Laurie Ruettimann, talks about the messes at Uber, Tesla, Google, and others and asks where HR was in the organization. Especially given that people indicated they went to HR and discussed their concerns and got ignored. I love her quote “But if you work in HR and someone complains to you about a legitimate problem, it’s your job to be the Jordan Horowitz of your organization and fix what’s wrong”.

I agree with both of them. Culture and leadership belong to the C suite, not just HR, but I used to tell aspiring leaders and HR professionals that if they weren’t willing to come to work every day prepared to be fired for doing the right thing they should do something different.

Our leadership models are broken. In many cases our high talent selection processes use the wrong criteria for admission and as I pointed out in a previous blog the results show it with almost 50% of “graduates” of those programs being rated in the bottom 50% of leadership by a 360 review of their capabilities by peers, subordinates, and direct reports.

60% of candidates seeking leadership roles do so to increase earning potential, they don’t give a rat’s ass about developing people of bettering the organization. I think we have a congruence and alignment problem!

Although particularly today it might be an unpopular viewpoint I also grind my teeth when I see articles on some version of the feminine mystique that says that women are genetically better leaders than men. My experience has indicated that is as much bullshit as the genetically programed leader.

I really like this quote from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg-

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will be just leaders.”

What a great thought. Maybe we can even expand it to include no special comments about race, national origin, sexual orientation, and a bunch of other factors that aren’t relevant.

Don’t mistake me. I have had the privilege of working with some incredibly capable women leaders and aspiring leaders. I have also had that same opportunity to work with people of color and other cultures who made that same commitment to excel.

So I am going to bore you with my recipe for what I look for in potential leadership candidates-

·         The KSA’s or technical competence to do the work

·         Understanding and committing to mastering all three levels of trust

·         Emotional intelligence

·         Emotional balance

·         Self-Awareness

The trust issue is huge. We have an international trust crisis in leadership in all our major institutions and we need to own it and fix it.

The data is in and it is ugly with representatives of all four generations recording that 50% of them don’t trust leadership. Until we address that the shitty leadership phenomenon that Michelle Berg describes is here to stay and HR isn’t going to fix it.

A recent survey of HR and training professionals indicated the biggest barriers to effective training and development were budget and employees taking the time to participate.

Please. The biggest issues with training are relevance and reinforcement.

Training doesn’t fix trust issues or create alignment and engagement. It is a tactic.

So if you are a current or aspiring leader here is what I recommend you do-

·         Get 360 feedback on where you are in your journey.

·         Pick the most important behaviors to work on and change.

·         Ask your colleagues for feedback and suggestions on how to keep improving.

·         Listen and embrace the changes that provide the most impact.

·         Follow up, measure, and repeat.

Shitty leadership is epidemic, stand out from the crowd…….


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