Greensilkmuse's Blog

Growing Leaders: What Should Be Covered in a Leadership Development Program?

Posted in Leadership by greensilkmuse on June 4, 2010

Art pulled me in to help design and execute a leadership development program for a select group of folks who have the potential to succeed to the top jobs in their organizations.   We’re working with an advisory group to define the program and had talked about including both “hard” and “soft” skills training in the program.  At the end of the meeting, Art pulled me aside. He wanted to get my perspective and asked:

  “I hear about the hard stuff and the soft stuff.  We need both in a program that is supposed to prepare prospective leaders to become executive directors.  I’m in the kind of role we are training these folks to take on.  I understand what they need when it comes to the hard stuff – financial planning, budgeting, expense management, revenue generation.  I’m not sure, though, what sorts of ‘soft’ skills must effective leaders have?”

Top of the list for me is communications skills.   They are at the core of effective interpersonal relationships and leaders, to be effective, need to understand and work a variety of relationships.  Their communications skills are critical for articulating strategy and priorities, engaging and motivating people, and building relationships with key stakeholders.  An organization’s leader is its voice. 

A critical role of a leader is to engender trust.  This means ensuring consistency in words and deeds – displaying integrity.   Sometimes the best way to illustrate this point is to show what it looks like when it’s not done well.  A story in today’s New York Times on BP’s leader is a great example of what NOT to do —  The gaffe-prone CEO.

As Sydney Finkelstein, professor of strategy and leadership at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business points out:

“People want to know someone is in charge, that the right person is there, but someone who says the stuff that (this CEO) has said doesn’t engender confidence.”

In times of crisis or significant change, a big, bright, spotlight shines on the leader – dissecting every aspect of his or her message (what is said, unsaid, and how it’s delivered).   When messages are not consistent with reality, credibility is lost and, with it, respect for the leader.


One Response to 'Growing Leaders: What Should Be Covered in a Leadership Development Program?'

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  1. “Growing Leaders” conjures up a vibrant image of the effort it takes to develop great leadership skills. I will RT this on Twitter. People-skills (aka soft skills) are the heart, soul, and mechanics of leadership. No matter how great the critical thinking skills or occupational expertise of the leader, without great people-skills, s/he will fall short.

    Here are two posts that give practical examples of just what can happen:
    Kate Nasser

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