In the past decade much of the truly transformational leadership work happening in organisations has been driven from a place of self mastery. This approach is however being challenged by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and the author of the new book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” who shows by categorising our cognitive flaws, that knowing oneself is not enough, not nearly enough to be the effectual leaders we need to be. Separate research released in September 2011 by the Minneapolis based consultancy Modern Survey also indicate a set of findings which show that the highest levels of employee engagement comes from a place other than Self. What the survey reveals is that the highest correlation between employee engagement are not appreciation, career development and recognition which have been taken as de rigeur. Instead, it is the willingness of organisations to be transparent, honest and to instil confidence in the future of their businesses that is driving higher levels of engagement in employees.
This has a profound impact on what it is we are seeking to achieve with our leadership development programmes. It requires leadership development that is driven by the ethical positioning of organisations, and the willingness to build long term sustainable practices that employees can believe in.
It requires a realignment of how CEOs and their boards communicate but more importantly, of how they behave. This is where the real leadership development work happens and where frankly, the least is done.
Developing a sense of purpose in the work we do, managing our energy and attention at work is still critical, as is knowing how to be agile in the face of uncertain markets matters. But what seems to matter more is that we have a belief and an insight into how our leaders are running our organisations - that they are doing it with integrity and with an eye open for the long term sustainable future of the places we work in, not just with an eye on making a quick buck.
In sum, educators need to ensure when designing processes that they do not merely work at a microcosmic level, that the values of what they teach are deeply embedded into the way they teach. For leaders, it requires that the values which they purport to uphold are significantly visible in the action of their daily practices. And for directors of people management, talent and organisational effectiveness, it demands the procurement of processes which start from a place of identifying how the values of their organisations can be made clearly visible and easily emulated. This would go some way in engaging employees who as the research has shown, do genuinely want something authentic and lasting to believe in.