Creating Aspirational Leaders: How To Become One

274568 l srgb s gl woman leader 300x199 Creating Aspirational Leaders: How To Become OneSAP recently spoke to Dr. Bob Aubrey professor, award-winning author and HR innovator, who will shed some light on becoming an aspirational leader. This is the third part of Dr Bob Aubrey’s sharing on creating aspirational leaders.

Catch up on the previous 2 blogs – The Power of Inspiration and Building An Aspirational Company.

Q: What would you describe as the foundations of leadership wisdom?

Aubrey: The idea that leaders need wisdom to do their job goes back at least to Plato’s philosopher king and Confucius’ advice to rulers during the Chinese Period of Warring States. But it is a very contemporary issue in business leadership today. For example a recent article by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi in the Harvard Business Review claimed that their earlier theory of knowledge isn’t enough for leadership. A third and often forgotten kind of knowledge – practical wisdom – is key.

Leadership is about practical wisdom which is neither the wisdom of scholarly knowledge nor the wisdom of mystical or religious experience. Practical wisdom is about drawing conclusions for action based on experience and observation.

Practical wisdom is a two-sided coin: the performance side of practical wisdom is the ability to get things done; the development side of practical wisdom is the ability to lead others wisely.

I believe you cannot be an aspirational leader if you are lacking in practical wisdom. And the starting point for developing it is your own humanity. You won’t get achieve it if you have no knowledge or experience, but you can’t even begin if you are not able to observe others and unwilling to learn from the people you lead.

So to become an aspirational leader you should build on Experience, Knowledge, Humanity, Listening, Learning – these are the core tenets of wise leadership.

Q: How important is it for an aspirational leader to be a coach and mentor, how do you measure the value of these roles?

Aubrey: Aspirational leaders are usually both coaches and mentors, but there are fundamental differences between the leader as coach, and leader as mentor.

Leaders are generally coaches for their direct teams, helping them to do the job better. On the other hand, leaders are mentors for developing people across the organization and are focused on the career rather than the job.

Leaders in the role of coach or mentor are not focused on being the action hero but as improving action for others. And they should start by looking at the deeper motivations of the people they are helping, their aspirations.

Leaders inside the organization who take on the role of coach and mentor have a different role from external coaches or mentors. They do not give unconditional support to the individual and define success only on the basis of psychological satisfaction. They must look at the organizational needs and find the match for the individual’s aspirations in terms of where the organization is going. Internal coaches and mentors are extremely valuable in finding this match for developing people.

In today’s organizations we need to measure the results of aspirational leadership. To do that you need both Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Key Development Indicators (KDIs). Most leaders have only been exposed to KPIs and therefore don’t have a way of valuing their important work in developing people. But KDIs, a concept I introduced more than 10 years ago, is now becoming mainstream. The reason it has taken so long is that KDIs are usually not numbers. But what counts is not always countable. When competence, motivation and culture count you use KDIs rather than KPIs to assess how you are doing.

Q: What would you say are the competencies of aspirational leadership?

Aubrey: For aspirational leadership, there are five large competency areas:

1. Developing career success
2. Developing lifestyle success
3. Developing job success
4. Using development tools
5. Using advanced tactics

Each of these competency areas can be broken down into four or five sub-competencies that describe exactly what leaders do.

For example, developing career success involves “Identity” – which at the excellent level is the ability to deal with cases where identity is a problem or with a change in identity. This is a new concept in leadership but is in fact quite common. For example managers who are promoted to leadership positions have a change of identity. In times of change, identity can become a key factor in whether an employee will embrace a new way of working or refuse to change because “it’s just not me”. Other competencies in this area are “Enterprise” – being able to deal with enterprise problems as well as individual initiatives and strategy, “Value Creation” – being able to identify new sources of value, and “Mobility” – the ability to compare several cultures professionally and is a change expert.

Inside each of the competencies, there is a description of levels in order to gauge whether you are a beginner, a learner, an implementer or an expert. I published this competency grid in my book because it was the first time a competency grid has been defined for developing aspirational leaders. I wanted to give readers more than just a description and the grid was a tool to help the reader self-assess and improve leadership.

The proof of competence, of course, is getting results consistently. As you get beyond the learner level as an aspirational leader you will get the job done with most people.

Q: What would be your advice to Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) in becoming an aspirational leader?

Aubrey: I believe CHROs should assess leaders according to this key competence. They should include aspirational leadership in training and they should use competency grids and development planning to give feedback to leaders. I believe it should absolutely be part of a leader’s bonus package.

I also believe that CHROs can use KDIs not only assess individual leaders but to work with their leadership teams to define indicators for their people development strategy. Once the indicators are set, CHROs can link the strategy to how managers develop people and how employees develop themselves.

Finally, CHROs communicate outside the company as well as inside. Who, after all is responsible for making the company aspirational for students and recruits? It helps to have a charismatic CEO but the CHRO is the executive who ensures that the middle levels of leadership are really capable of motivating and developing their teams.

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Innovation » future of business