Why it’s time to disrupt talent management Mark Loftus for HRReview
“The shift from Talent to talents, from the few to the many, and from talent planning to talent leadership depends on creating and embedding and building a culture of leadership. And this must start with an organisation’s talent professionals.”
To read the piece in full on the HRReview website click here.
In this second blog post exploring leadership and the role of character development in good leadership, we take a look at what leaders are like. Or rather, we explore why asking this question is not a very good idea and whether there are better questions to give us insights into leaders and leadership.(Leadership development plan)
Leadership for many is something remote. Something other people do, and often don’t do well. It is something for older, more experienced people. Some may aspire one day to be a leader, others could imagine nothing worse. Leadership development is something that happens after management development. It is something we are invited by others to do, not something we take on to ourselves.
watch the news and rarely can see ourselves doing what we see leaders
doing: standing on stage, delivering speeches, confronting, arguing,
playing the political game. It seems not to relate to our journey to
work by tube, standing elbow to ribs. Leadership ends up seeming
remote from our daily lives and this remoteness disables.
have a powerful pull to see leaders as someone or something special.
Yet the evidence suggests that this is not the case. There has never
been a satisfactory answer to the question of what makes a leader.
Read the political and historical biographies, watch the TED videos
and tv programmes and try to summarise what leaders are like. Are
there particular personality factors? A particular pattern of
intelligence? A distinctive make up to their character?
is easy to misstep in thinking about leadership. If we do not
separate out the person and the role of ‘the leader’ we are
destined to confusion. You might hope that somebody in a leader role
would show leadership, but a moments reflection suggests that
sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Taking or showing
leadership is not the same as having the role title ‘leader’.
is a simple enough idea but one that has far-reaching implications.
For example, if we study people who have the role title of leader we
will end up listing out some behaviours and attributes that
undoubtedly are related to leadership but we will also list out
factors that do not relate. This then faces us with making the
judgement about which of these attributes actually do relate to
leadership, and how we are to make that judgement is not at all
For example, in the UK at present business leaders are far more likely to be men. They are also more likely to be taller than average, to have more prominent jaw-lines, to have come from a particular educational background. They are also more likely to be extrovert, have lower trait anxiety and be more open to experience; they are wealthier and have more affairs. Our instincts are that some of these attributes legitimately relate to leadership and some are a reflection of current biases in who gets into privileged positions. But how are we making this judgement? In a very real way, we already need to have an understanding of what leadership really is before we can start to pick out the traits that distinguish and create a leadership development plan.
have invested heavily over many years in trying to identify the
particular characteristics that pick someone out as having leadership
potential. Each large corporate will have their own formula and our
experience from consulting to hundreds of these corporates over more
than two decades is that there will be some overlap (common traits),
but each will have some distinctive parts. Many will emphasise the
need for their senior leaders to have a quick mind, or to be
extrovert, a good communicator. Some will emphasise curiosity, others
emphasise people awareness; some self-belief, others humility, and so
the picture is looked at in totality, it is hard to resist the
conclusion that all that ends up being compiled is a list of the
traits of humanity. There certainly seems to be no single thread from
which the fabric is woven. Nor even a repeated motif in the pattern
of the cloth.
insight can be an uncomfortable one: there is no definitive list of
characteristics that sets one person apart as being a leader or
having leadership potential. The definitive and distinctive list of
leadership qualities remains elusive because there isn’t one. And
if there is no definitive list, then perhaps we are all more or less
equally capable of leadership.
conclusion feels at odds with our inner certainty that there simply
must be something that sets leaders apart. To understand this, we
need to go a little deeper again and in the next blog post we will
shift from the question ‘what are leaders like?’ to some more
fruitful ones: ‘what are leaders for?’ and ‘what do leaders
And again, let’s close with some quick personal reflections: are you able to pick out the behaviours and skills you have that others will experience as leadership? Are they the same as those shown by your colleagues around you? Have you ever been in a situation where there was no leadership and leadership was needed? If so, what stopped you from taking the lead? (Leadership development plan)