Leadership is BUILDING Capability NOT BEING the Capability

Good Leadership is About BUILDING Capability NOT BEING the Capability

What is leadership? I’m asked this question often and the term is explained in many of the London Business School programmes on which I coach.

Leadership is about exciting others to higher levels of performance,
to get others to do what they need to do and ideally
to get them to go the extra mile in what they do.

The last day of a leadership development programme on which I coached has participants draw an image of what their current leadership is and an image 2 years from now of what their future leadership vision is. Who do they want to become as a leader? One participant articulated his growth edge beautifully:

I want to BUILD capability of others and NOT BE the capability.

This is so true for so many leaders. They get promoted because they are good at what they do and when they are promoted they no longer do what they are good at, instead they are expected to lead others doing what they used to do. A CFO (chief financial officer) no longer does spreadsheets and accounts, a CFO leads others to do that work. THE CFO’s role becomes influencing others to do their jobs well.

When’s the last time you excited someone to outperform you?

Can you say you’ve been excited by others to go the extra mile?

How confident are you that your team’s capability is what you’d want it to be, consistently?

What is a Leadership Role?

Any role can be a leadership role. This might be controversial, and I truly believe it. Any role requires leadership. So often when people hear the word leader they think of the person at the top of an organization, the one who is so often out front. This is often the public leader or the one featured in the media. Yet there are so many more leaders that are needed to supply any product or service.

The Co-Active Training Institute has a model of leadership ® with 5 dimensions of leadership.

Leader in Front – this is the person on the stage, and a ubiquitous example would be Steve Jobs of Apple, he was clearly the leader in front at the various product launches. This can also be the leader of a meeting, running the agenda. This is the person that engages and activates others, not necessarily the one with all the answers.

Leader in the Field – this often arises opportunistically. It’s when someone is just part of a group or gathering and they sense that leadership is required, they step in and lead. Often, it’s instinctive for them such as when there’s an emergency and someone just takes charge.

Leader Beside – this is the type of leadership that happens in business partnerships or in a marriage. My business partner, Sue, and I both lead our EQ Leadership Training business. We both co-deliver our training, side by side, for our participants. From a business perspective, she often does the marketing and client relations and I do programme design, financials and business acumen. This is collaborative, open and mutual.

Leader Behind – These are all the unsung heroes that make things happen behind the scenes. They see and sense what is going and serve in a way to bring something to fruition.

Leader Within – This is the foundation for all other leadership styles. This is about leading oneself. It’s about knowing oneself and having agency and self-determination. Think of anything you’ve had to get done, it starts with motivating yourself to perform. It’s about being yourself and acting in pursuit of your goals and dreams and in accordance with your values.

By the mere fact we are responsible for all our actions and reactions, we are all leaders and can step into any of the other 4 leadership dimensions when we sense it’s needs and choose to do so. This model shows how agile leadership can be, how non-hierarchical or role-dependent it is.

What is Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership requires self-awareness and conscious choice which are the first two cornerstones of emotional intelligence (EQ). Effective leadership of others starts with leader within, leading one’s own self. Then leadership requires building the capability in others, so they can perform at their highest potential.

1. Have a goal, dream, or objective. What’s the reason you are doing what you are doing? Know where you want to go. For companies that’s often having a vision or mission statement. For someone running a meeting it means having an objective for the meeting and knowing the outcome you’d like to achieve.

2. Choose the impact you want to have in a given situation. How do you want others to feel? How can you contribute to that experience? I often ask people “what impression do you want to have” in a meeting or situation. Not in terms of putting on a performance, rather in terms of what qualities, skills or attributes do you want to demonstrate. How do you want to come across that’s genuine for you?

3. Know what excites others. If leadership is about exciting others, then you need to know what motivates or excites the people you are wanting to influence. Some people are motivated by money, status, group affiliation. Others by personal development, not working alone, power, autonomy, recognition, stress avoidance, or structure. How do you position things to others in ways that honour their motivational preferences?

4. Find “right”. When trying to motivate someone, find the things they do right and ensure you acknowledge them. Learn a feedback model that can build confidence by acknowledging what people do well and that builds competence by helping them to improve where necessary. The COIN model here is a good one with examples to both positive/appreciative feedback and constructive/developmental.

5. Be overt and transparent. When you are building someone’s capability, tell them that’s what you are doing rather than doing it by stealth. Position their growth opportunity as just that, an opportunity to develop and potentially advance (if that’s of interest to them). Make it aspirational. And share your experience of when you had to learn this same thing to normalize it and remove any negative judgement.

Leadership is about exciting people to perform, consistently and to as high a standard as necessary. That means leading yourself, and any number of other people as required. The opportunities might be obvious of when you need to lead (a meeting, your team’s performance) and there will be other times when you choose to lead from the field or behind. Be intentional about when you are the capable one and when you are needing others to be capable.

What might be possible if you could excite and lead others to do more?

Do you want to improve your leadership?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to help build others’ capabilities.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels