First of all, leadership is not a characteristic that people possess, that can be assessed and developed. When a person's characteristics and behaviors invoke a followership response in others, we call the process leadership, but it is critical to realize that different cultures and different personality types have different patterns that invoke their trust and followership. What makes someone an outstanding leader to some people guarantees that people of another background will not follow.
When a person's natural characteristics and behaviors happen to trigger the followership of those he or she interacts with, we think we have found a natural leader. In fact it is amazing how many people are considered great "natural leaders" because they have found a way to surround themselves with people whose followership they trigger.
Organizations cannot afford to count on natural leadership, not only because it can be rare, but because there is no guarantee that the person who triggers followership has relevant insights and knowledge for a project, a team, or an organization. Instead, organizations need to discover the people whose contributions need to be trusted and teach them deliberate leadership, the ability to discover and deliver the patterns of behavior that invoke the followership of the necessary organization members.
Leaders need to have something to contribute and the ability to invoke followership in the people they need to influence. We seek to augment the perspective and knowledge that technical professionals have to contribute with courses in creativity, complex problem solving, strategic thinking, and ethics. We seek to increase their ability to deliberately invoke followership with courses in organizational leadership, reviewing lessons from the behavioral sciences with a constant view toward developing the capacity to build trust and followership, with constant real world practice applying and internalizing the knowledge.
Fundamentals of Organizational Leadership
These courses review the essential dynamics and differences of human behavior from fields such as sociology, psychology, cognitive science, and organizational behavior, within the context of seeking differences that a leader might need to shift and the dynamics that might affect their followership and trust. These courses not only involve a great many experiential exercises for immediate skill development, but encourage immediate experimentation in the real world with the knowledge and insights. The courses investigate classic concepts of leadership such as charisma and supervision. Custom programs often integrate a preferred approach or text such as Stephen Covey's Seven Habits or Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence.
Handling Differences in Style and Culture
Many leaders get started handling people and groups who are just like them. They often need to develop new skills to lead people who differ in styles of learning and cognition (including gender related). Many must also deal with differences related to the cultures of academic discipline, race, or nationality. The problem becomes even more complex as team or department members differ from each other on these approaches to reality. To handle these differences, leaders need a general approach to differences, familiarity with difference style models, some understanding of specific cultures, and a variety of techniques to choose from to accomplish the desired shift of thinking for people of various cultures and styles.
Approaching Motivation, Values, Goals, and Ethics
Creativity and judgment reflect the motivation, values, and goals of those involved. When there is conflict on these among the problem solvers and stakeholders, the problems are labeled "wicked problems". Real world situations are often subject simultaneously to conflicting legal codes (because of multiple jurisdictions), moral codes (because of multiple cultures), and ethical codes (because of multiple professions). Yet managers and organizations have to design and choose actions and judgments to take.
The worst approach is to pretend the conflict does not exist. In our experience, teams can explore these dynamics, often discovering common ground and/or increased acceptance which allows better ideas to be implemented, the true essence of "team building". By seeking both solutions which are more responsive to the conflicting needs and attempting to discover commonality among the stakeholders before beginning conflict resolution and negotiations, better alternatives become available and possible.