Creating Leaders

We have all heard that some people are just born leaders and that they were destined to do big things.  I am not sure that is true.  I think it might be more correct to say that many people are born with the potential to become leaders but there is a lot of “creation” work needed for these skills to truly emerge.  We must create leaders.

I was struck this morning by the HBR blog talking about leadership development.  Michael Watkins makes some very good points especially around the “seven seismic shifts” that must take place as somebody moves from a manager to leader.  These include the move from specialist to generalist, analyst to integrator, tactician to strategist, bricklayer to architect, problem solver to agenda setter, warrior to diplomat and finally supporting cast member to lead role.  Watkins gives us an incredible amount to think about with just this one concept.

I would suggest that a good framework for personal evaluation and discussion during talent planning sessions might be to list the seven seismic shifts on a sheet of paper and then on a scale of 1-10 evaluate where you are on the continuum.  Then next to each make a list of the development work needed to move this along and potential concrete ideas for making this happen.

Creating leaders is an active not a passive process.  It doesn’t just happen by accident but rather it takes a lot of deliberate work on the part of both the individual being developed and those that are charged with the development.  Our industry is all about developing compounds from the lab, moving them from discovery to development to launch and eventually to commercial success.  We get that, and spend billions of dollars every year to make it happen.  I would argue that developing the people in our industry is just, if not more, important than developing products.  The same amount of thought, process and funding should go into developing our future leaders as our compounds.

First and foremost, it is important that people recognize the responsibility for their own development.  Early in my career someone told me that people get promoted more by what they do after 5 o’clock than what they do during the normal work day.  This is meant to be much more than just doing more emails.  After work is when you might complete your MBA or other advanced degree.  It is when you attend industry or related seminars.  It is when you work for nonprofits or do other interesting activities.  It may simply be the energy you build from spending time with family or friends or by reading and broadening your world.  It is the time to network and seek guidance from those outside your company.  Perhaps time outside work could be viewed as the cocoon time that is so necessary before becoming a butterfly at work.

Perhaps more important than individual development is the role others play in the process.  It is critical to have bosses who know just when to teach, when to allow experimentation, when to correct, when to praise, when to criticize, to broaden, to challenge and when to just leave you alone.  Creating leaders is definitely an art and I am very thankful that I seemed to have just the right leaders during my career at just the right time to help me through this difficult process.  Think about your own careers and see how important others have been for your development.

Just as important as your bosses are the people who work for you or who are your peers.  The easiest way to get promoted is to have people better than you working for you and with you.  The positive momentum, learning and energy this creates can’t be overstated.  This goes beyond just the people in your company and extends to those agencies and vendors you work with and the customers who help you develop as well.

I always like to think of what Peter Drucker said when asked what is the most important thing people must do to develop.  He said that more that anything else people needed to be themselves.  Everyone is unique and special and it seems that most trouble happens when people try to act like others and hide their real selves.  Perhaps it is important to remember Dr. Seuss when he says, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those that mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

As the beauty of summer unfolds think and work on the creation of leadership for both yourself and others.

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