There is often major gap between what leaders know versus what they actually do. For instance, you can put your leaders through a world-class program on effective coaching, but how many, as they operate at a frenetic pace, then make coaching others a regular priority, much less a mindset? And, taking a broader view, how many other leadership skills erode each year with lack of use? This skills erosion occurs because the focus of leadership development has been placed on developing individual skills and capabilities, and less on cultivating the right mindsets. A change in mindset will lead to the alignment of thinking and action. This is why, in many ways, mindsets trump skill sets today.
In 2014, Skillsoft conducted a global Voice of the Leader Survey, which revealed a significant gap between how leaders think and behave today in relation to what is required to successfully meet established future goals. During this survey, respondents were provided with a list of 20 possible leadership mindsets. Now, before you read on, look at the list below and choose the three mindsets (as we did with our survey respondents) that you believe are most important or necessary to meet your organization’s objectives in the next three to five years.
If you selected “develop people, “collaborative” and “continuous learning and growth” as your top three mindsets for future success, you are aligned with our survey respondents. Now here is the mindset gap: When we asked leaders to then answer about their current situation, “Which of the mindsets listed are shared most by all levels of your leaders today?” not one of their answers was the same as the first three they listed. Not even close. The top answers, in order, to this second question were “customer first,” ”control,” and tied for third, “efficiency” and ”play-it-safe.” Surprisingly, the three least selected mindsets were “external focus,” ”opportunistic” and “employee first.”
Here is where it gets both very interesting and problematic. If your organization’s primary economic driver is innovation, how can you create game-changing products or services when your leaders’ mindsets are defined in terms of “playing-it-safe” and “control” and do not include such things as “external focus” or being “opportunistic,” much less any of the three stated most important mindsets of “develop people,” “collaborative,” and “continuous learning and growth?” Talk about barriers to innovation!
So, how do you really know if your organization’s leadership development efforts are successful? Send a quick pulse survey to your leaders at various levels within your organization, and provide them with a list of mindsets to select from. Ask them the same questions we did and once you receive the results, answer the following:
- Are the mindsets being cultivated through your leadership programs and processes actually align with how your leaders are thinking and behaving currently?
- Is there a difference between the mindsets of your senior and frontline leaders?
- Is there a strong correlation between how your leaders think and behave and your key business drivers?
For more information on how to shift leadership mindsets, download this whitepaper or stay tuned for my next blog post.
Taavo Godtfredsen is an executive producer at Skillsoft.