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The essential ingredient missing from your leadership development program.

So much rides on the shoulders of your leaders. Your organisation’s success. Your employees’ wellbeing. Your collective ability to endure market turbulence and thrive. Without the right leaders steering your organisation forward and galvanizing your people in pursuit of a compelling vision, organisational success – or even survival – is far from assured. Why, then, do so many leadership development programs fail, despite the best of intentions and ongoing investment?

Investing in leadership development isn’t enough
Few organisations underestimate the importance of leadership. That’s why vast resources are ploughed into talent identification and developing future leaders.

And yet, despite the multi-billion-dollar leadership development industry, businesses that engage us say their leaders have been failing them.

Their leaders do not have the necessary competence to lead. Some are adept at implementation, but is that all we need our leaders to be doing? Unequivocally not.

What does effective leadership look like?
Amid all the talk and noise surrounding leadership development, the essence of what it means to be a leader can get lost, so here’s how we think about the work of leaders at Kaya:

Whatever the organisation or leadership role, the work of leaders falls within four key domains:

1. Set the vision and strategy, providing a clear future focus or reason for being.
2. Build the structures, systems, processes and practices to realise the vision and strategy.
3. Create and maintain the culture of the organisation – a performance culture.
4. Drive implementation. Not necessarily effect it, but ensure implementation occurs.

What knowledge and abilities do leaders need to do their work?
To be an effective leader, individuals in leadership positions need to leverage a deep knowledge and understanding in four key areas that relate directly to the four domains:

1. Human nature. What makes people tick? Leaders need to engage with team members with a clear understanding of why they behave the way they do.
2. Working relationships. How do people go about working together? What makes an effective team? How do we, as leaders, encourage collaboration between team members?
3. The nature of work. What is our work, as opposed to the tasks we undertake to do our work? How do we ensure that individuals are doing the right work, at the required level?
4. Leading change. Not managing change, but leading it. That means being comfortable with ongoing change and openly embracing complexity and ambiguity.

The problem with thinking purely in terms of competencies
The inner circle within our leadership development model is the space in which leadership competency frameworks reside.

For example, in understanding human nature, I would need to develop the competencies of self-awareness, drive and purpose, and capacity to learn.

This is the origin of SKA (skills, knowledge, abilities) leadership competency lists. SKAs are often the starting point for leadership development initiatives and, logically enough, become the criteria for assessing the behaviour, capabilities, progress and success of leaders.

It makes sense, on paper. But why isn’t it working? Why are so many leaders underperforming?

Enter mental models
Mental models are the subconscious lens through which we all view our world – the deeply held subconscious beliefs that influence how we make decisions, apply our judgement and, consequently, how we behave. They hold the key to developing sustainable behavioural change. And they are at the heart of the Kaya leadership development ethos.

The science of organisational psychology – and our experience – tells us that, if we’re to support sustainable leadership development and capability growth, we have to start with mental models.

What beliefs does a leader hold about all manner of organisational things? How do these beliefs influence the leader’s behaviours? Are these beliefs and behaviours supporting or derailing the leader?

Our work at Kaya is designed to support leaders in unearthing their mental models and, crucially, how and where to shift their beliefs, all with a view to unlocking their leadership potential.

Learn more about mental models and how they hold to key to leadership and organisational effectiveness. Alternatively, talk to our team about a more productive approach to leadership development – an approach that addresses the beliefs that are limiting your leaders. You can get in touch via our website, or call us on 1300 262 794.

As a managing partner at Kaya, Lianne Sipsma draws on her wealth of experience as an organisational psychologist in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to unlock the potential within clients’ organisations, as well as within the Kaya team. She has a specialist interest in capability assessment and development, encompassing wellbeing, engagement, emotional intelligence, team effectiveness, stress management and interpersonal relationships.