Leadership Development vs. Lead-the-Ship Development

The Bailey GroupBy The Bailey Group

leadtheshipDive into our blog vault and you’ll quickly see two clear themes: leadership development and organizational transformation. Traditional leadership development typically focuses on increasing an individual leader’s ability to drive business outcomes. Increasing awareness, closing skill gaps and strengthening critical characteristics are common elements of a leadership development program. The overarching goal lies in helping leaders think and behave in ways that free them from the confines of their pre-enlightened state in order to become the organizational citizens they were meant to be.

Organizational transformation speaks to an organization’s process of reinventing itself to meet the demands of doing business in a rowdy, disruptive, highly competitive, super unpredictable and exceedingly demanding environment. Transformation isn’t just about getting unstuck; it’s about figuring out how to never get stuck again, instead remaining flexible and agile. It’s addressing how to move from a reactive state to an empowered, informed and proactive state. Transformation underlies the metamorphosis an organization embraces as it attempts to not just do business differently (shifting the how), but to modify the very core of the organization—a core that includes beliefs, behaviors, approaches, motivations and assumptions (the who, what, where, why and how).

I recently came across an article out of McKinsey that highlighted the theoretical Venn diagram between leadership and organizational transformation; the concept and importance of a transformational leader is reflected within the intersection of the two. A “transformational leader” can also be described as a leader who is equipped to lead the proverbial ship. The article acknowledges that organizations are quick to establish new processes and procedures and/or alter existing systems and structures as part of transformation efforts. But that’s only half the battle—perhaps only a third of the battle.

Yes, yes, yes—new strategies, initiatives, processes, technology and structure are inarguable elements of transformation. But the real lever lies in the ability of an organization’s leaders to think different, to act different, to speak different … to lead different. Back to that McKinsey article: “Half of all efforts to transform organizational performance fail either because senior managers don’t act as role models for change or because people in the organization defend the status quo.” In other words, you can set up all the processes you want and sing the song of renewed strategy and transformation, but until people see it, feel it, hear it—experience it—you’ll likely get stuck and just spin your wheels.

The fundamental takeaway for any CEO or executive leader? Leadership development is one thing. It serves as an appropriate and solid solution in a myriad of business situations. But organizational transformation demands a new approach to leadership development—there is leadership development that makes a better leader and there is leadership development that makes a better organization. The organization can’t and won’t change until the people within it change. Connect new strategies and systems with leadership development and intentional shifts in mindset and you unlock the secret of true transformation and lasting change.