Choosing the right people for leadership positions within your organisation is a critical process that will determine the future of your company. Regardless of how well your current senior management teams perform, they will move on at some point either through career change or retirement. Mike Gaffney discusses the importance of behavioural traits when identifying the right people to take over senior leadership positions, and why these traits will continue to drive growth and protect company values.

Mike what is leadership effectiveness in an organisation?

In time there will be a need for managers to move into a more senior leadership role. Senior staff will target them for senior management positions. These managers have the skills and knowledge to manage effectively, however the challenge now is not about skills and knowledge, but about behaviours.

The biggest difference between a leader and a manager is the leader’s ongoing adherence to certain behaviours that are mandatory in the organisation. These behaviours are testament to the core values of the organisation. You can be the best manager in the world within your given area but if you don’t display the expected behaviours of the company – be it flexibility, adaptability, positive attitude- then you are not leading by example which is key to effective leadership. The leader must live those behaviours consistently, and to do so requires the following:

• a significant level of self-awareness
• an honest assessment of your current performance
• a gap analysis showing where you need to be
• a commitment to take the necessary steps to achieve optimal performance

How does LEAP help companies prepare their employees for leadership roles?

In that context LEAP’s Leadership Effectiveness programme uses an executive coaching approach. We will sit with the individual and review feedback from their peers and colleagues. It’s a 360 assessment incorporating the views of those that report to them, those on the same level as them and from their superiors that they report to. We also do rigorous personality profiling to identify the normal disposition of the individual, what motivates them.

We also assess the company’s values and the required behaviours to drive those values. With that starting position, the individual and the executive coach will map out a personal growth plan typically covering a 6 to 12 month time frame. This plan will outline how they are going to progress to the required level of performance.

What is expected of each participant?

At the start of the programme it will be explicitly stated what that required level of performance is upon completion, then we typically set 3 month milestones where certain behavioural targets have to be reached. This is very much about the individual working with the executive coach within a structured framework. It challenges the participant to improve behaviours, to increase self-awareness, to take ownership of existing performance.

There is consistent reviewing of their trial and error efforts throughout the programme. For this to work it’s critical that the individual’s manager is also fully committed to the process. He or she must agree with the profile of the individual’s current level of performance, and also agrees to sign off on the gap analysis, and where the individual needs to get to within the agreed time frame.

So this programme is for people already in leadership roles?

Yes it’s about developing people already in management roles to go to the next level within the organisation where they are now in a senior management position. At this level their behaviours and their ability to engage as part of a senior management team is critical. This includes their ability to make strategic decisions, and to think for the benefit of the whole organisation not just their own immediate area of responsibility. In stepping out of the functional role of the middle manager into a broader role of the senior manager, the individual must ask themselves ‘how do I contribute to the team? How do I make sure the organisation grows and improves its performance on a continuous basis?’

How important is innovation and creativity in the leadership role?

Different people have different capabilities. It’s more about demonstrating the right behaviours as one of the leaders within the organisation. It’s about your ability to work on yourself to perform as an effective leader, to ensure that as a leader you are contributing fully to the decision making process of the senior management team.

In a way every worker is a leader because every worker can lead by example. But there are specific requirements that people need when moving into senior management roles. The higher up you go in the organisation, the more critical your leadership skills and capabilities become. The danger is you can have very good managers who aren’t good at leading because they don’t reflect certain behaviours, or because they don’t fully engage with the decision making process. So the higher up you go in the organisation the more you have to deliver based on your leadership capabilities rather than on your managerial expertise.

What are those leadership capabilities?

A lot of organisations have leaders who are naturally enthusiastic and great communicators. They are energetic and very strategic in their approach, always looking for new opportunities to explore in the marketplace. Their leadership style infuses other people with the same kind of positive energy. But at some point those leaders will need to be replaced. When it comes time to replace them you have to be careful that their replacement is not someone who relies on their managerial expertise, but lacks those vital leadership qualities and behaviours. Leaders move beyond just skills and management capabilities and into the role of strategist.

Is the programme partly an assessment of managers to gauge their suitability as senior managers?

No, their suitability has already been decided before they come to us. The organisation believes you are the right person for the senior management position; the question for them is ‘how do we support you at this senior level?’ That’s why we start with the question ‘where are you now, and where do you need to get to?’ Then the gap analysis and the personal growth plan are agreed and signed off by the individual and the senior manager. The executive coach is there to bring the discipline, the objectivity and the expertise needed to help the individual progress and succeed at each stage in the programme.