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Leadership Development Activities for Managers

It’s the manager. No really, it’s the manager. In their State of the American Manager Report, Gallup attributes 70% of the variation between great workplace engagement and poor workplace engagement to the quality of the manager or team leader.

The Need for Effective Leadership Development

Those you’ve trusted to leadership roles have great influence and responsibility for their teams. At their core, leaders are responsible for enacting the mission and vision of an organization, strategizing and developing tactics to achieve organizational goals, and impacting organizational culture. The key skills needed are communication, empathy and emotional intelligence, and team-building. When working effectively, leaders positively impact the climate at work, build a trusting environment, and motivate their teams to actualize the vision and mission of your organization.

Additionally, today’s workforce demands a different type of leadership. Employees today want coaches, not bosses. They want someone who understands their unique strengths and values and who helps them in developing and growing. And increasingly they want to be connected to purpose and find meaning in their jobs. This shift in what employees want necessitates leaders capable of coaching, maximizing on individual strength, and helping people improve themselves. This taps into a leaders ability to understand and connect people to their strengths and motivators in order to get their best work. 

Engagement, talent retention, and productivity are challenges of today’s workplace and warrants strengthening your front lines – your managers. It makes sense then to promote effective leadership development activities as the cost to your organization in performance and people is too high otherwise. With the litany of resources available for leadership development, it can be hard to decipher what leadership development activity will actually be effective. 

To help you in deciding, consider this:  the most common desire of workers everywhere is to have a good job, one they wish to retain and grow in, whether as an employee, manager, or even CEO (Jim Clifton, Gallup CEO author of It’s the Manager). Like those in non-management roles, managers and supervisors too could benefit from having a strong sense of purpose and leading from that purpose. Unengaging leadership development styles, such as having managers read a book and report back to their superior, or sending them off to leadership conferences which may provide non-effective development activities (like team building/bonding activities, trying to just encourage more open communication, etc.), do little to address the root of the leadership problem; leaders need to connect and lead from their purpose. This is the developmental task that leaders need to continually hone in order to be successful. 

Leading With Purpose: Purpose as the Foundation of an Effectively Developing Leader

Researcher Emma Russel at the Kingston Business School found that the key to successful leadership is a strong sense of purpose. Having a leader who is connected to their purpose gives several key results:

  1. Purpose puts success in terms of impact and legacy. Leaders with a strong sense of purpose measure success more on their impact on the organization and teams as well as the legacy that they leave behind. 
  2. Purpose is contagious and helps to engage others. That they operate from their sense of purpose deeply engages them and others. Leaders with a strong sense of purpose are inspiring, and that is contagious (think Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela). As leaders operate from their sense of purpose, they are then better able to inspire and engage others. 
  3. Having a sense of purpose increases resilience. One of the key skills needed in leaders today is the ability to navigate change and the challenges of the modern workforce. Leaders with a strong sense of purpose are more likely to be resilient leaders. 
  4. Purpose connects values and goals and improves strategic alignment. Knowing your purpose acts as a compass.  As leaders are tasked with the vision, mission, and strategic activities of an organization, their purpose can be their guide in making sure all the “why” of their activities align with their purpose and the goals of the organization.


Effective Leadership Development Activities for Managers: Going Further than Before

What, then, should leadership development activities be for those in management? Here are some activities that leaders can engage in to become more effective in their roles and in the key leadership skills needed. With use, these simple activities can have your managers building the habit of leading from their purpose.

For Communication Skills

  1. Craft a purpose statement.  What do your managers want out of their roles? What lasting impact or legacy do they want to leave behind? How do they see themselves at their best when leading their teams? These are all reflections your managers can journal on to get to know themselves and their authentic purpose in their role. In doing the purpose statement, leaders will find what inspires them and will better inspire others. 
  2. Encourage managers to have purposeful conversations. Managers are heavily involved with the employees who do the bulk of your organizational activities. Make sure the conversations they have with those they lead are purposeful. Are they explaining to employees how their specific role aligns with the strategies and goals of the organizations? Are they helping employees to see how their own purpose connects to their role?


For Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

    1. Set an intention for your day. Write out one intention that you have for that day and actively try to accomplish it. Intentions should line up with what your leaders perceive their life/work purpose to be such as “be more compassionate”, “be more collaborative”, etc. 
    2. Reflect on your day. 
      • Each morning write out how you feel i.e. how did you sleep, what’s your overall mood today? 
      • Each afternoon at the end of your day, take a few minutes to sit down and think if you accomplished your intention for that day. 
    3. Reflect on core values and goals. Do your leaders know their core values? Are they operating from those core values? Have them list their core values and how it relates to their role and impact in managing people.

For Team-Building Skills

  1. Empower your employees to lead with purpose. It’s not enough for leaders to be connected to their sense of purpose. For your organization to transform from surviving to thriving, each person in the organization must be connected to their own purpose as well. Having a sense of purpose is deeply engaging. Connect the day to day operations with strategic goals.
  2. Encourage feedback and help find team core purpose. The best leaders are great communicators, they encourage feedback and create a safe environment for feedback to be offered. Have your managers encourage feedback from their team on their performance, how the team operates, and on their leadership.

More and more organizations are seeing that purpose can be leveraged for organizational performance. Transform your managers into leaders by helping them connect and lead from a deep sense of purpose, and watch your overall employee engagement, experience, and performance improve as well.

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