Think of some of the more entrepreneurial leaders of our time and it’s as if they were born leaders, and success was somehow their destiny. Steve Jobs, for example, had a strong vision of what he wanted to achieve and went all out to get it.
His successor Tim Cook, on the other hand, took a more traditional career path and worked his way up through the ranks. While he may not be seen as such a visionary, Apple has continued to enjoy great success since he took the helm in 2011.
The moral of the story is that there isn’t one single path to being a successful leader. However, without strong leadership, even the greatest ideas will wither and die. So what can you do to ensure your organisation has the leadership it deserves?
Mind the [leadership] gap
Leadership is the major factor that makes everything work together seamlessly, towards a unified goal. Without it, an organisation’s resources can be rendered ineffective. Investing in an effective leadership development programme is key to supporting your leaders on their journey. The trouble is, off-the-shelf leadership training programmes don’t always meet the development needs of the leaders since in nature they are too generic.
While it’s natural to think that a training course will solve leadership issues, it rarely does. That’s because training and development are actually two very separate concepts. Training tends to be broadcast, often an off-the-shelf solution to meet a knowledge or performance gap. When training is one-way, it doesn’t address the mindsets and behaviours that sit behind the gaps that have been identified. Alternatively, coaching which is a bespoke service tailored to the recipient’s strengths, weaknesses and aspirations are often more successful at developing better leaders. This is especially true in the context of your executives and CEO, where the gaps that need filling are usually intensely linked to behaviours and mindsets.
An effective coaching environment will, therefore, provide actionable goals targeted to the needs of the individual, rather than a training checklist aimed at many.
What does good executive/CEO coaching look like?
Effective leadership coaching and development is good for business and good for the individual. Here’s what you can expect for your organisation:
- Results. Getting your leadership team to roll their sleeves up and work with people at all levels of the organisation is a sure-fire way to achieve ambitious operating goals. Of course, it’s not about them doing everything, but ensuring they have visibility of the entire organisation means they’ll be better positioned to identify roadblocks and opportunities.
Culture. What we’re talking about here is the ability to articulate core values such as putting the customer at the heart of everything the organisation does, integrity, and respect for the individual. Your leadership team will be able to get employees to buy into those values and create processes to ensure that culture is reflected in hiring and promotion decisions.
Talent. If you want your organisation to set ambitious goals and achieve them, then your leaders need to be able to attract and motivate a highly talented team. It’s as much about the recruits’ confidence in your business as your confidence in their abilities, so how are your leaders at inspiring and enthusing potential employees?
Innovation. You want to create an environment that encourages talented employees to generate new ideas that spur revenue growth — and then analyse those opportunities and formulate strategies to capture the best of them. Effective leadership coaching enables your leaders to foster that environment successfully.
Influence. Think of all those inspirational leaders throughout history to the present day. They have might have very different personalities and skills, but they all had the ability to communicate effectively to bring people along with them on their journey. And that’s what your leadership team needs to do — with the board, investors, employees, and communities.
A win-win scenario
Executive and CEO coaching should, of course, also be invaluable for the individuals receiving it. When they move from one role to another, take on more responsibility or require support to get the most out of the wider team of colleagues, the right support can benefit individuals in the following ways:
- Space and time away from the workplace and daily workload can offer opportunities for in-depth reflection and thought to gather. An executive coach can act as an independent, non-judgemental sounding board to structure and crystallise thoughts and thinking patterns.
- Through skillful and effective questioning techniques, coaching can challenge an individual’s thinking, helping them to see what needs to change, and close the gap between current and potential performance.
- They’ll be helped to build a framework and structure that will support and ensure a sustained commitment to achieving their goals.
- It can help to develop and influence a coaching culture throughout the organisation enabling managers to guide — rather than manage — performance.
- Executive coaching can be a powerful resource in helping individuals to identify and focus on what’s important, accelerating and creating success for both them and your organisation.
Is it time to rethink personal development?
CEO training that is not tailored to meet individual needs is not giving the best return on investment.
Coaching that focuses on the individual instead enables a deeper understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and what they need to do to close the gap between where they are and where they want to be — and where the organisation is heading, too. So if you don’t have a Steve Jobs leading the organisation, never fear — coaching can help you nurture your very own Tim Cook.
And of course, it’s not just for the senior team — coaching can work for people at all levels of the organisation and is a great way to unlock talent and deliver on early promise.
“From the onset, I wanted to pour every ounce that I had in myself into the company. But in terms of being everything (Steve Jobs) was, I never had that objective. I’ve never had the objective of being like him. Because I knew, the only person I can be is the person I am, right? I’m not an actor.”
— Tim Cook