Leadership is not just for the boardroom

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With the rise in ExecEd, it could be easy to forget that leadership is a skill set for every part of the business, writes Erica Sosna, Author of Your Life Plan.

The proliferation of material concerning leadership theory over the last 20 years, could lead one to believe that it is the exclusive concern of senior executives. In fact, leading others is relevant to anyone at any level of a business that needs to bring others alongside them. In addition, if you want to future proof your talent pool, wouldn’t it be wonderful to genuinely engage high potentials in the skills of leadership as early as possible in their careers? And lastly, with the rise of technical specialists, we need to make sure that our leaders are able to inspire and excite others through their care and vision as well as establish credibility through their expertise.

Leaders need followers

Why should anyone be led by you? This raises an interesting question about the use of power and hierarchy – beyond this, what inspires individuals to become aligned with and pledge their loyalty to a leader? You need to work with senior teams to help them develop the personal authenticity and vulnerability to excite others to high performance.

High potentials - your talent pipeline

Leadership isn’t taught in school. Nor is it part of the standard undergraduate degree. Even if you were lucky enough to learn about leadership as captain of a sports team or a director of a play, these skillsets look quite different within the professional environment. They require adapted behaviour and incentives – there are no half time oranges, red cards or understudies within the world of work. Organisations need to future-proof their leadership by asking – who do we need our leaders to be in the future? Are they to be developed in a similar fashion? Or do they need a different skillset to cope with the challenges ahead? When you work with an organisation, be curious to discover what the organisations future needs are to succeed, so you can plan effective development for the next cadre of leadership.

And what about your experts?

Technical professionals are often at the heart of a business. Whether they provide specialist operational ability, such as programming, design or engineering, or come from the knowledge professions, such as law, accounting and consulting, it's increasingly obvious that they require a slightly different leadership development approach. As technical specialists, their training will have typically skewed toward their technical capability, leaving them in an uncomfortable position concerning the leadership of others as they progress through the organisation.

In my experience as a consultant, the opportunities to lead are many and they occur much more widely than in the confines of the executive suite. Having this broader view puts organisations in a more powerful position to compete and to make the most of their talent, at all levels.

Erica Sosna is a leadership and engagement expert, working at BlessingWhite (A Division of GP Strategies ). Erica is the Author of ‘Your Life Plan’, published by Capstone in March 2014. For more information about BlessingWhite and to download their free research reports on employee engagement and leadership go to www.blessingwhite.com/research. For more information about Erica and her book go to www.ericasosna.com

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