There is a misconception that leadership skills only need to be developed in people who manage other people. A parallel myth is that being able to lead is an innate quality that only the lucky few are born with.
We need to bust both of these myths. Improving the leadership skills of everyone at your credit union—including your board members—matters a lot. After all, many leadership skills are just people skills. And what working relationship, team or board wouldn’t be strengthened by each person being better able to interact with others?
Even individual contributors working completely on their own will benefit from a stronger knowledge of such key “leadership” skills as time, meeting and stress management. And when they develop their skills, you just might find that some of them take to leadership more ably than anyone anticipated.
Marty Linsky, J.D., a co-founder of the consultancy Cambridge Leadership Associates and an adjunct lecturer at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, thinks the widely held myth that leadership is born and can’t be developed creates two significant risks for organizations.
“For one thing, it prevents those who exercise leadership from being the best they could be,” he says in a Q&A from the Harvard Business Review. “People who believe most fervently that leadership is an inborn gift invariably think that they themselves possess it. Such overweening self-confidence leaves little room for self-doubt or self-reflection. But to be effective at leadership, people must step outside themselves to critique their own decisions and actions.
“For another thing, it prevents many other people from even trying to fulfill their leadership potential,” Linsky continues. “If an individual doesn’t believe that he has leadership ability—even when he has demonstrated that ability to others—he will not take on larger leadership challenges. And his organization will not benefit from his greater contributions.
“In both cases, it’s a very self-limiting myth.”
The time is now to reinforce the idea that everyone at your credit union should be developing their leadership skills—and to take that development into action in the workplace. Here are some tips and strategies for making this a reality for your team.
Busting the myths
Many resources exist to help people learn about themselves and how to better interact with others. You can help your team (or yourself) make the most of educational articles, videos, courses and the like by making sure key learning strategies get applied:
- reading and sharing with a colleague,
- having the whole board watch a video together and then discuss it, and
- offering incentives to staff members for taking online courses to develop their knowledge.
Importantly, reading or taking courses only gets people’s feet wet. Having opportunities to apply the new knowledge helps reinforce what has been learned.
Imagine two colleagues, both non-managers, are having a conflict. Instead of taking charge of the situation and working it out for them, the manager of these two people encourages them to talk about the conflict, to apply their skills in how to resolve the issue and to bring to the manager for discussion a negotiated pathway forward. The potential here is big not only for learning but also for the team members to feel the satisfaction of overcoming something difficult to achieve something good.
It’s not just the boss who can lead
In the HBR article, Linsky identifies key leadership skills that can be learned, including adaptability, tolerance for uncertainty, good relationship skills and the ability to let others take the reins.
CUES’ Unlimited and Unlimited+ group memberships include access to 40 Harvard ManageMentor courses—including managing your boss, negotiating, persuading others and presentation skills—that can help your individual contributors do their current jobs better and move your organization toward the place where every staff member leads to their full potential. Let me know how I can help you get access to them.