by Dr. Mary M. Gillam
When you think of a leader, what image or person comes to mind? Is it the President of the United States (POTUS), your pastor, military member, corporate executive, principal, football coach, teacher, or could it be the little elderly lady who has spent years mentoring girls from broken homes? How you answer this question depends upon your definition of leadership and the characteristics that you believe leaders should possess.
After examining much of the literature, I elected to define leadership as:
“The ability to influence the behavior of others to the extent that they are willing to engage in activities that promote accomplishment of the organization’s mutual goals and objectives.”
The key word is influence. Having the ability to influence, motivate, or change another’s behavior to achieve common goals is part of the experience.
As leadership development continues to evolve, senior executives must be able to maximize their employee’s productivity by unleashing their leadership potential. They must have the ability to influence the leadership development behavior of their team.
For years, leadership theorists postulated that leaders possessed certain traits. They depicted key behaviors, or responded to situations in a way that characterized leadership. Some advocates even suggested that if you were born into a certain family, then you automatically possessed a certain degree of leadership potential. However, as time progressed paradigm shifts began to occur in the thinking and logic of many theorists.
As a former Senior Executive Service (SES) member with the Department of Defense, and a retired Air Force Colonel, I have served in numerous leadership positions. With a combined 35+ years of information technology, leadership and management experience, I believe, no I am convinced that there are many people with latent/undeveloped leadership potential. They possess an inherent degree of undiscovered leadership talent. Unfortunately, sometimes, their leadership potential lies dormant and simply requires an external source to “coach” them through their leadership journey.
I have worked in many organizations where some employees were literally regulated to performing certain tasks because they were not deemed “leadership material.” Yet, on numerous occasions, history has proven this strategy flawed. When given the opportunity, many of these individuals excelled in leadership roles.
Organizations destined to win must continue to invest in leadership developmental programs that augment and enhance an employee’s professional growth. I often encourage senior leaders to practice seeing beyond the present. Is this individual a hidden leadership gem just waiting to be discovered? What are you doing to enable that individual to grow and develop as a leader?
In summary, I believe that the art of genuine leadership is developing the next generation of leaders. As senior leaders, we must look beyond pedigree and expand our development of future leaders across the board. We must continue to motivate our team members to elevate their potential. Additionally, we must encourage them to collaborate and partner with the leadership potential that resonates inside of them, so that they can reach the leadership destination that is before them.
About the author
Dr. Mary M. Gillam is the owner of Executive Leadership Enterprise & Management Services located in the Washington DC metropolitan area. She is a retired Air Force Colonel and former member of the Senior Executive Service Corps with the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. She is the host of a local television show, Leadership Table Talk, and the inventor of the board game, The Leadership Build Zone. An Amazon #1 best-selling author, she is also the creator of the C.O.R.E Leadership Development Model. Her website is http://www.executiveleadershipbiz.com.