With targeted development you increase the capability of your successors.
Organisations know that the quality of leadership determines organisational success and they know how hard it is to identify and nurture the next generation of leaders. By recognising that a large majority of senior professionals have a high need for achievement, it is possible to narrow down the areas of development that will enable these emerging leaders to step up fast and effectively.
We have consistently found that from 67 to 85 percent of these professionals score high in the need for achievement.
The study by Delong, Gabarro and Lees, tested professionals in public accounting, investment banking, corporate law and consulting sectors. (1) The need for achievement is a motivational driver identified by David McClelland in 1961 (2).
Reasons why high achievers can find leadership challenging
High achievers need to do it themselves and are ‘impatient with everything that distracts them from the real work of getting from A to B.’ (1) As organisational size and complexity increases it becomes harder to set direction, coach and delegate which in turn demotivates junior people who themselves need both challenge and support.
The motivation of high achievers is to build relationships in order to achieve an objective such as providing advice, getting or giving information, or managing people to get the job done. Whilst getting the job done is necessary, it is not sufficient. Authentic leadership and engagement require a different way of connecting to others.
The need to face continuous challenge and achieve results tends to drive them to meet an increasing number of stakeholder demands which can reduce their sense of autonomy. Leadership can intensify this tension which may jeopardise the sustainability of their role.
What can be done and why?
Development is fast and effective because it focuses on very specific needs using a highly challenging and and at the same time supportive process.
Very quickly leaders are having to integrate strategic business issues with relationships and personal resilience.
When individuals have the time and space to work on these specific issues, they are better able to influence their organisations, get the best out of their team and colleagues, and their style of leadership is more sustainable.
Sources 1 When Professionals Have to Lead: A new model for High Performance: Thomas J Delong, John J, Gabarro, Robert J Lees (2007) HBS Press 2 Human Motivation: David McClelland: (1987) CU Press
“I thought the session was very useful – focused and insightful. I do reflect back on our discussion. Already I have consciously tried to apply one or two of the ideas which I think contributed to me both winning some important work and also to taking on a larger leadership role.” Phil Cotton Senior Partner, Southampton