Leadership is the driving force in the success or failure of many activities. My understanding of the importance of Leadership was again confirmed during a sidebar discussion with a high ranking engineering manager on my business trip to Switzerland. We discussed the success or failure of the highest priority projects in the company.
I was in Switzerland to help my company refine processes, processes which, in my opinion, while important, pale in comparison to the impact of leadership on the projects. I firmly believe the best processes in the world cannot make up for ineffective leadership. My conversation with the manager confirmed this when we discussed how those big projects progressed, how their lack of progress exactly paralleled the effectiveness of the current leader of the project.
On the large, global project I am most deeply involved in, leadership has played a pivotal role in it’s ability to progress. I have seen the project struggle, I have seen it soar, and I have seen it move at more standard pace. All three phases have corresponded to the person at the helm of the project, the Project Leader. The high ranking manager had seen the same ebb and flow on my project.
Since Leadership Development is one of my passions, I steered the conversation to leadership development. I have worked to develop my ability to lead people over the past 20 years through lectures, books, and application of the techniques I have learned. I have watched people grow in their ability to lead through my coaching and mentoring. In the last year, I have given three presentations to Managers about leadership techniques and concepts. All were met with strong interest by my fellow Managers. And my current boss has implemented some of my suggestions to help my department better lead our direct reports.
I told the high ranking manager that we should create a leadership development program for our current leaders. I was met with a blank stare. The concept of leadership development seemed foreign to him. I pushed again and said that we should put in place programs to develop the people we chose to lead our projects, especially our most important projects. Again, nothing.
I found it sad that the people who choose our leaders do not see the development of leadership capabilities as a priority. This will be a concept I must continue to push up hill at my company. I foresee a long road ahead.