The Current Challenge Of Leadership

CoachStation: Building Leadership

CoachStation: Building Leadership

People-oriented issues are the biggest factors impacting business success in 2012.

A recent report by the business group, SixSeconds, titled The 2012 Workplace Issues Report: Insights On The People Side of Performance seeks to identify the key challenges in the workplace today. The report details the results of a global survey which explores top issues as well as employee attitudes and the role of emotional intelligence in solving those key issues. The findings collate 775 responses from leaders and employees worldwide, representing various levels of employment, industries and sectors. There are many interesting results and data-sets stemming from the survey, all providing depth to the importance of people-related leadership activities.

58% of survey respondents list ‘Leadership’ as the biggest ‘people-side’ issue in their organisation.

Additionally, the survey highlights key words that identify fundamental areas of concern for business. The views of the respondents were summarised in the most frequently used words collated from the verbatim comments. In order, they were:

  1. Retention
  2. Talent
  3. Leadership
  4. Communication

Fascinating results, with these trends and themes entrenched even more soundly in a few of my most recent discussions. It seems that the ability for an organisation to join the dots for their employees to the broader vision; hold onto key staff; provide effective leadership; and supply opportunities for growth and a reason to stay are as important as ever.

I regularly attend the Leadership Effectiveness Group (LEG) organised by a peer, Sonia McDonald, which seeks to bring like-minded people together to share concepts and experiences about leadership. Last week I was invited to facilitate the session where the topic was: What are your challenges as a leader?

It was a great evening, where every attendee had the opportunity to participate and provide insights based on their own experiences and industry. The following points were raised during the LEG event and may be of value and assistance to others, as we found that the vast majority of issues and challenges were not industry-specific. Core themes included:

  • The high need for all employees to be self-aware and understand the impact they can and do have on other employees and clients.
  • The requirement to align personal needs with business needs – leaders must understand the link between the ‘work you’ and the ‘external you’, if it exists.
  • The benefits and additional challenges that derive from modern technology and the links to Social media – it is important to understand the risks and rewards of Social Media.
  • Flexibility is important, although there is an acknowledgment that measuring effectiveness and efficiency contribute to the ability to remain flexible.
  • Business is not only about the bottom-line.
  • A clear line must be drawn between friendship, leadership, standards and expectations. This is a challenge where friendship is often confused with connectedness.
  • Being able to differentiate between technical and adaptive challenges. Adaptive challenges are those where there is no known way or method to solve the issue – you are on the edge of competence. Technical challenges are those that can be solved through existing knowledge, skills, background etc.
  • The prominence of capable technical employees being promoted into leadership roles without the proper training, support and development – leadership competence is assumed.
  • Understanding individual personalities and work styles – related to the ability to effectively influence others.

…and the final word from the LEG discussion belongs to Bill, who left us with an excellent point regarding ‘soft-skills’.

He proposed that the name in itself is a bit misleading as the so called ‘soft-skills’ are actually ‘hard-skills’ in reality.

One of the more compelling results in the SixSeconds survey was seen in the accumulated responses to the question: Of the important issues your organization is facing, what percentage are tied to people / relationships and what percentage are tied to financial / technical issues?

66% of these important issues are ‘People / Relational based, with the remaining 34% being ‘Financial / Technical”

Interestingly, by the end of the LEG evening it was evident that a few core themes stood out which were very consistent with those expressed in the survey. Developing soft-skills (or ‘hard skills’) requires effort, focus and self-awareness amongst other elements. Is this why the leadership skills that fall under this category are often the ones that are least practiced and improved. Is it fear? If  a leader asks the question of his or her team, they may not like nor be willing to acknowledge the answer. So is there a view for some leaders, based on fear, that it is best to not ask in the first place?

The responses to these challenging questions are different for every one of us. The importance of understanding your own needs and motivations are key to understanding how you deliver as a leader. The evidence that this remains an issue can be seen in surveys and discussions such as those highlighted. The most important element is not the data itself. That is simply an outcome.

The willingness to acknowledge and take action to develop these skills and attributes, to become a more effective leader will drive improvement in leadership effectiveness and ensure that we are seeing different survey results in years to come.

What are your major leadership challenges for the remainder of 2012 and into 2013?

I would like to thank Sonia and the members of the Leadership Effectiveness Group for their input, insights and depth of discussion last week, which has contributed to much of the content for this blog.

6 replies
  1. CoachStation says:

    Thank you for your comments and for reading my blog, Harjeet. I am glad you found it of interest. I read your blog which has some great messages…NO IF, NO BUT.

  2. ireconnect says:

    I think I find the biggest challenge to be meeting that perfect balance when it comes to social media and virtual communications and real life conversations. It’s difficult to cultivate the qualities necessary for true leadership if you’re not having face-to-face communications with clients, employees, etc. When people aren’t engaged, retention will always be a big issue. Developing “soft skills” is essential in the constantly evolving business world. Great post.

  3. CoachStation says:

    Thanks for your comments ireconnect (and for following my blog). I agree that it is the face-to-face connection opportunities where the soft-skills matter the most and several of these skills are required in other methods of communication that align to soft-skills. I may be drawing a long bow but I keep coming back to how ‘real’ you are in interactions. Genuineness, authenticity and other attributes actually mean something although they have become a bit of a cliche’ not because they aren’t important, more so because they are used excessively and/or as tools rather than inputs based on ‘realness’. I think that most people will forgive your mistakes and come along on your journey if it links to theirs. It is OK to develop the soft-skills however there must be a base to work from in each of us. Thanks again and have a great day. Steve.

  4. Joshua Freedman says:

    Thank you for sharing the Workplace Issues data — clearly we have a very very serious problem in organizations around the globe: We are not effectively building people-leaders. However, I also find it compelling that in our analysis, organizations that DO make EQ development a priority score 32% higher on leadership effectiveness. These are learnable skills, and increasingly we see serious organizations investing in building this kind of competitive advantage…. perhaps the ONLY real competitive advantage left in business today.
    – Josh

  5. Steve says:

    Thanks for your excellent comments and perspective, Josh.
    You are right – at a time where seeking a competitive advantage within the subtle nuances of business are as critical as ever, I will be interested to see in coming years how many organisations genuinely and meaningfully shift their culture to work with, not in spite of their employees. Time will tell! Steve

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