Random Acts of Leadership – How to Spot Them and Stop Them

Opportunities to grow and develop are the number one reason employees gave for choosing to leave their jobs. In fact, 37% of employees who left their jobs were motivated by a desire to learn and grow*.  From individual contributors to leaders, development has been top-of-mind for so many.

If development, including leadership development, is such a sought-after benefit, why do so many leadership development experiences fall short of expectations?

The truth is that, if not thoughtfully constructed, the most well intended leadership experiences can degenerate into disconnected points-in-time.  Jumping from topic-to-topic without a throughline not only leaves learners confused and uninspired, those same learners have unwittingly become victims of Random Acts of Leadership.  They might have a positive experience with a one-time learning event, but they aren’t creating a foundation for a consistent and strategic approach to enhance leadership skills.

With forethought, planning, and insight from leaders and learners, it’s possible to create a leadership development journey that is well constructed, logical, and scaffolds learning for long-term results. 

How to Avoid Random Acts of Leadership

You can avoid Random Acts of Leadership by considering a few simple best practices:

  • Consult with learners on topics or skillsets – Ensure topics are chosen in consultation with the leaders themselves and based on feedback from those they lead.  Too often well-intentioned stakeholders determine what skills are most critical for leadership journeys without consulting the very consumers of those topics – the learners.  Reduce the randomness by finding out what matters most and what’s needed according to your end consumers. 
  • Link chosen skills to business objectives and organizational goals – When learners understand how a skillset supports the achievement of organizational goals, they are more likely to see the investment of time as valuable.  These linkages can be made both within the content – virtual, in person, or self-directed learning – and in the surrounding communication and learning tools.  Learners should never leave a session wondering, “How is this going to help me in my job?”  If they do, a random act of leadership has been committed.
  • Keep application as a central objective – Leadership development is one part mindset – the attitude you bring or the way you approach your interactions with others.  Yet even when critical mindsets are introduced, application must follow if the learning is going to feel real, relevant, and useful.  For example, it’s one thing to introduce the concept of emotional intelligence and to address the importance of managing emotions effectively.  But it’s even more powerful to cover mindset and provide practical steps to control emotions, express empathy, and manage relationships.
  • Create context and relevancy – Development opportunities can feel disconnected and random when the application opportunities don’t relate to the learner’s industry or role.  A delegation case study that centers around sitting down and providing feedback in an office setting immediately feels impractical and irrelevant when presented to a leader who operates on a shop floor.  Putting leadership skills in the context of the industry, organization, and leader’s level brings powerful relevancy to an experience that makes a lasting impression.

Finally, identify your “red threads”, or important mindsets and skillsets, and pull them through the experience to create a throughline for your learning journey.  That means introducing critical ideas and important skills and connecting back to them throughout the experience.  But what are those red threads?  How can you identify the core concepts to which to anchor your leadership journey?  What topics are top-of-mind for learners from individual contributor to senior leader? 

Join our upcoming webinar – The Red Threads of Leadership Development – on March 7 at 12pm ET. Register today!

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