We had just completed a series of once-a-month leadership workshops that lasted for a year with the top leaders of a city, and my colleague and I were reflecting upon it. What had gone well? What had not? What had we learned? Etc. In the midst of the discussion, I asked the question, “Who do you think benefited the most from these workshops?” Without hesitation, he replied, “The leader.”
I completely agree. That’s not to say that everyone else didn’t benefit from it. Based both on the monthly evaluations and personal conversations with the participants, it would seem from all appearances that the employees who attended the workshops received a lot of value from them. However, as is the case with all leadership development programs, no one benefited more from it than the leader of the organization. Really. Why is this true?
- It makes people feel the organization is investing in them. This program invested about 36 hours in helping them become better leaders. That’s almost a week of work over a period of a year. People who feel that the organization (a.k.a. “the leader”) cares enough about them to invest in their development feel more connected to the goals and values of both the leader and the organization. Inevitably, that fosters loyalty.
- Organizations become what they talk about. The great thing about having leaders engaged in leadership development is that they begin to talk more about leadership; and those conversations, informed by cutting edge leadership principles, help raise the leadership quotient for everyone.
- Leaders set the example. This leader did what all great leaders should do. He participated. He didn’t just provide training for everyone else, while conveniently excusing himself. He set the example both by his presence and his participation. Providing the program and participating fully in it cements into people’s minds, “My boss walks the talk. She sets the example.”
- Great leaders create an environment where relationships, collaboration, and innovation can flourish. It’s not really a fringe benefit to leadership development programs. It’s a key component. When established and emerging leaders from across the organization spend time together, this is what happens. Relationships are formed and strengthened, collaboration happens and innovation bursts into flames.
- People love leaders who are visible. Aside from experiencing personal growth, the leader who provides and participates in this kind of program accomplishes something else. He/she captures the chance to be visible and available to others. Think of the time that it would require for that leader to spend one-on-one time with 50 to 75 employees every month talking about how each one could become a better leader! Talk about busy!