One of the interesting observations of writing regularly about developing and reinforcing great leadership habits is that the readership tends to be the group that already gets it.

Trust me, the lousy leaders that haunt our corporate hallways are not spending much time reading and applying the lessons of this blog, or the great work of: Wally Bock (Three Star Leadership) or Dan McCarthy (Great Leadership) or Bret L. Simmons (Positive Organizational Behavior) or Mary Jo Asmus (Intentional Leadership) or Becky Robinson (Leader Talk) and the many other outstanding leadership evangelists.

The people reading these blogs tend to be in violent agreement on the need for effective leadership practices and effective leaders. They might occasionally differ on key points and the “how-to’s,” but we’re having a great deal of fun writing to and preaching to the proverbial choir.

Our issue is truly about taking the people-focused, results-oriented great practices so widely covered and helping them go viral inside our organizations. No small task and one that takes time, dedication and teaching by example.

First, some quick observations about barriers and then my thoughts on catalyzing a mini-leadership revolution inside your organization through good old-fashioned blocking and tackling. And, pardon me if the football tie-ins are starting to show up. I’m excited that we’re quickly moving towards the greatest season of all!

  • The slightly cynical, cold-hard slap of reality: there are some people in positions of authority that don’t get it, don’t care, and sure as heck don’t want to be converted. Get over it and get over them.
  • I encounter many firms in my travels that are truly ripe for improving their practices but lacking the catalyst to get going. No one is saying “No,” and the issue isn’t that the current leadership class doesn’t care, but more that it doesn’t know what it doesn’t know. I usually find pockets of effective leaders tucked away in these organizations in spite of the lack of a visible leadership development culture.
  • The people change, but the excuses for not improving leadership practices are all the same and include words such as: time, money, too-small, no one to coordinate, don’t know where to start, don’t need it, no budget for training and so on. Of course, the reality is that improving leadership practices is not expensive, and the notion of not having time to do the right things to improve the business just ties my brain up in knots!

Actions You Can Take To Start a Leadership Revolution in Your Firm:

  • Always strive to set the the example of the effective leader. No one is perfect, but word travels fast through an organization when some one and some team is meeting and beating targets, innovating, problem solving and somehow becoming a magnet for talent from other areas.
  • Be a relentless developer of talent: your support of the development of others through coaching, feedback, a supply of increasingly more difficult challenges and your encouragement of risk-taking in pursuit of innovation are all powerful tools at your disposal. You don’t need a budget or a training program to do any of this.
  • Encourage your team members to branch out into the organization. The better a developer of talent and the more success that you have at propagating your former team members into roles around the organization, the more likely you are to see your best leadership practices popping up all over the place.  The most successful football coach of the 80’s, the late Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers, is given credit for the creation of an entire generation of head coaches and the modern method to run an offense. It’s hard to read an article about a coach that doesn’t track lineage back to this brilliant coach and leader. In this case, one man set about the task of creating excellence and without knowing it, changed the culture of the entire sport.
  • Work leadership development into the corporate conversation. Ensure that strategy discussions ultimately encompass talent discussions…because no strategy can be executed without the right talent in place.  Once there is broader awareness, encourage your peers to engage in activities that promote discussions and that lead to actions. An example is the simple, low-cost “leadership book club” activity that I’ve seen work so successfully at the senior and front-line leadership levels. Tie development actions to lessons-learned from the reading activities.
  • Build leadership development accountability into the organization. Hold your managers accountable for proving that they get it and are living it in the prosecution of their jobs.

The Bottom-Line:

When it comes to leadership development, sweeping corporate mandates and expensive training initiatives are rarely as effective as consistent blocking and tackling. Your own practices are capable of creating a new and next generation of professionals that carry the right approaches and ultimately innovate and improve upon what you did. That’s what it’s all about.

I write everyday with the picture hanging in front of me of the great Green Bay Packers of the 60’s running the one play that everyone knew they were going to run…the sweep. They of course did this with devastating efficiency en route to numerous championships that decade.

The picture (signed!) shows Bart Starr handing off to Jim Taylor with Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston leading the way as blockers. Coach Vince Lombardi is visible in this picture standing on the sideline, watching his team execute this play as effectively as they understood how to breathe. Relentless practice around relatively simple concepts yielded perfection.

How’s your leadership blocking and tackling training going on your team?  Done right, it might just catalyze a revolution!