Two questions I routinely get when working with clients on leadership development initiatives are, “Why is this important for supervisors, foremen, and lead personnel? Isn’t their job about managing day-to-day operations?” The theme of what they’re asking is, “Why does leadership development really matter?”
Leadership development is inherently related to change, the active ingredient in growth and improvement. Billions of dollars are spent in the U.S. annually in support of change: improving safety performance, providing better customer experiences, and making work processes more efficient and effective.
A recent study reported that over the past five years, 98% of all companies experienced some major change. The rate of change for most organizations increased by more than 35% over the past two years alone. The result for most is less than ideal: only 26% of companies view their change initiatives as successful.
Where change initiatives fail is an important consideration which applies directly to the question, “Why does leadership development really matter?”
The process of change generally starts at the top with owners, executives, or senior managers recognizing an opportunity for growth or improvement. Initiatives are pulled together and are often handed off to middle managers for implementation. Ultimately, the launch campaign reaches the shop floor where employees are expected to incorporate the required changes into their job.
With rare exception, the breakdown occurs during implementation – a responsibility involving those in the middle.
Managing day-to-day operations is an essential part of a supervisor’s job. Maintaining status quo, however, doesn’t move the needle when it comes to implementing big changes.
The ability to transform a culture from a current state to a desired future state cannot be mandated or dictated via edict. The skills required for success are people-oriented. For change to succeed, supervisors must be able to get buy-in, commitment, and support from employees – skills provided through leadership development.
For most people, taking on change is a daunting task. It’s the new reality, however. Organizations that fail to prepare themselves for changes ahead are instead preparing themselves for failure.
The key to success involves first recognizing that organizations don’t change, people do. Developing the capacity to lead from within – and from the middle, which is equally important – will greatly improve your odds of gaining the traction you need for important initiatives that inevitably will come.