How to Grow Leadership in Your Organisation

Leadership has been in the news a bit lately, for both good and not-so-good reasons.  We have seen Jacinda Ardern ascend the heights of global leadership and struggle a bit locally with the performance of her colleagues and the Opposition.  And we have seen Teresa May succumb to a leadership challenge in the face of her inability to deliver on the Brexit challenge. Apparently, all publicity is good, so a bit of a spotlight on leadership is very welcome.

Why is that?

Well, leadership is the often unsung hero in every successful enterprise; whether that is in a public service, a business, a charity, or any other form of organisation.  Leadership makes stuff happen; and when leadership is absent, or not up to the task, nothing much happens.

Here in New Zealand, leadership in our organisations is not quite as good as it could be.  For many people leadership responsibility has been grafted on to already heavy operational workloads and it is often the poor relation when people development is underway.  In many organisations leadership does not get the attention it needs to do its job well.

So, a focus on leadership is a good thing because of the critical roles it plays.

Leadership defines purpose and sets direction; it inspires, engages and supports others to be their best self in the pursuit of that purpose and direction.

Leadership is the driving force for change.  It is no longer sufficient to set a single course and follow it; organisations have to continuously monitor themselves and the world around them and make the changes necessary to survive and thrive.

Leadership is the ‘glue’ that holds the separate parts of the organisation together; listening, communication and deciding in ways that pull everyone in.

Leadership is more about doing than about talking; it is through action that leadership does its work of building trusting relationships and, through them, sustaining the efforts and success of others.

In today’s organisations, leadership is a distributed activity:

  • Each person in the organisation is their own self and exercises personal leadership; people are no longer ‘units of production’ and are expected to bring their whole self to work, body and mind.
  • Teams are leader-led or self-led; making decisions and collaboratively carrying out shared or interdependent tasks.
  • Organisations are typically leader-led; a group of senior leaders, often supported by internal specialists, making those ‘big ticket’ decisions of organisation-wide impact; influencing direction, engagement, alignment, people development, and high performance work.
  • Many within the organisation interact with its external world of suppliers, partners, customers and other stakeholders; this external leadership defines how the organisation is perceived in its world.

Growing leadership capability needs to become a ‘must have’ activity when money and time resources are being allocated; consistent investment over time is the only way to sustainably improve leadership in our organisations and improvement in the results it achieves.

Here are a few ideas on how to improve leadership capability in your organisation:

  • Recruit change oriented and emotionally intelligent people into your leadership roles; these leaders will listen, empathise, build the trusting relationships, and champion the changes needed in the leadership role; don’t invite your operational ‘stars’ into leadership roles unless they also demonstrate change orientation and emotional intelligence.
  • Hold your leaders to account for their leadership performance; make sure their leadership responsibilities are in their job descriptions and are covered in their performance agreements and in every review conversation.
  • Provide your leaders with the tools they need for their leadership work: clear organisational purpose, vision and strategy, competency frameworks and review tools to assess their people, performance review and management tools to use with their people, and tools to monitor and manage the employee experience.
  • Support the on-going leadership development journey of your leaders; provide them access to new leadership learning, support their leadership experiments in the workplace, and coach them to improve their leadership practice.

If you need help to improve leadership in your organisation, give Kyran or Nicky a call on 0508 ODI ODI or email us on, or Talk to Us through our website.

We have the experts and experience to help you.