Under the Surface: A Leadership Journey  
  A new leadership blog in 2015 by Mark Kenny about changing how we think about leadership development and the under the surface issues that truly inhibit performance.  

2 items categorized "Leadership Development"


We are Not Enabling Managers to Become Leaders

IStock_000015965892_webThe other day a friend of mine expressed frustration.  He works for a major corporation and his frustration stemmed from the fact that he never stopped.  Literally, from the time he walked in the door until the time he left, he was moving from one meeting to the next, from one hot item to the next, right through lunch, all day long.  I asked him a simple question: “what is one thing that you wish was different, that would make the situation better?”  His answer was “I wish I had a better team.  They just can’t handle some of the work.”  In talking a little further, he didn’t feel like he had a problem delegating.  He truly felt that they were not up to the task.  And he didn’t have any capacity to deal with it.

I couldn’t shake this conversation from my mind.  I’ve heard many like it - some with different answers, but the tone and the frustration were the same.  But this one really stuck.  Maybe it’s because I know and care for my friend.  Maybe it’s because I know that I don’t have a black and white answer (which I like to have).   Maybe because I know there is something deeper here that transcends this one experience and deserves more than a quick solution.

Digging Deeper

I have asked myself several questions.

If this situation continues, what will happen?  Possibly:

  • My friend will burn out and even experience health side effects (we all know it happens).
  • His team will get frustrated and want to leave (if they don’t already) creating even more headache.
  • My friend will move on to a different position where the problem will only intensify until it reaches a crescendo.  At a certain point, you can’t operate that way anymore and be successful.

Who’s at fault here?

The easy answer: my friend – for not taking the time to develop his people, or to get the right people on the team who can do the work.

The more complicated answer:

  • His team for not taking the initiative and ownership to assess and develop themselves (and possibly have the right attitude).
  • His company’s culture (senior leaders) for not making continuous development and work-life balance a priority.
  • My friend’s current “leaders” who are not providing mentorship, time, and tools to develop his team (to lead instead of just managing work).
  • The organizational culture that does not seem to value development of people – there isn’t time for it, we have to make the numbers.

So what do we do?

The root cause is difficult to diagnose – especially with at least two degrees of separation.  Is it not enough time?  That’s a symptom.  Is it executive leadership?  Is it how my friend thinks?  Is it a disconnect between saying we value people first and then behaving in a way that puts performance and numbers first?

What I do know is that many people are in the same boat.  They are frustrated.  They are frazzled.  They are overworked.  They are managing work and not leading people.  They don’t feel like they have the capacity to develop people and lead.

How do we fix it?  I have ideas, experience, and knowledge, but I don’t have an easy answer.  It’s a lot of work.  I do know that it requires changing how people think.  My friend probably needs to think differently about prioritizing the development of his people.  His managers probably need to think differently about mentoring and culture.

And we all need to think differently about how we develop leaders.  And we better do it quick before we lose some really good people.






Develop Leaders Differently?

IStock_000000831854_webU.S. companies spend almost $14 billion a year on leadership development, according to McKinsey and Deloitte.  Yet most top executives still rank leadership development as their top concern.  Does a disconnect exist between current leadership training methodologies and resulting outcomes that are actually visible from the C-Suite?

I have wrestled with that question for some time.  While I cannot articulate a complete solution in a short blog post, there is a model I have come across that provides some food for thought to expand our thinking about leadership development.  This comes from the world of therapy and Ed Jacob’s book Impact Therapy.  The two worlds have a similar objective: to have an impact on behavior by changing how a person thinks (their “self-talk”).  It provides a five-point foundation to increase our impact on changing behavior.  Keep your own leadership development initiatives in mind as you read through them.

The model is based on 5 “T’s”:


You must have substantive theory behind the development effort.  This is not some wishy-washy experience or program.  There is solid content and material undergirding it.  From my perspective, this is the easy part because there are a number of great leadership programs out there that already have solid underpinnings.


Theory does no good if it does not challenge how a leader thinks.  You cannot change behavior unless you address how a leader thinks about particular situations.  Leadership development must make leaders uncomfortable and challenge them to think differently…if anything is going to change.


I find this to be a difficult element to incorporate well.  We must have a sense for providing the right experiences at the right time in a leader’s development.  We must know when to speed up and slow down.  We must decipher a leader’s stage of change in order to time the right experiences.


This is easy and hard at the same time.  It’s easy because we tend to be more comfortable with this element.  Many programs involve teaching something to leaders.  It’s hard because it takes skill to teach the right tools and concepts to leaders in a way that will be understood and received.


Training refers to actually developing a particular skill in a leader by having them practice that skill.  If you are training me to be an airline pilot, at some point I have to get in the airplane.  Preferably, I get in the airplane to develop my piloting skills before you ask me to go out and carry your family on its next vacation.  What experiences and opportunities can you provide that will help leaders exercise and develop a particular leadership skill?

Put it together

All five of these work together.  It does no good to have great theory and teaching if there is no opportunity for the leader to put it into practice and really develop what was taught (train).  That is like someone who takes a golf lesson but never practices.  Likewise, it does no good for the leader to actively develop and practice a skill if they don’t have the proper instruction and foundation.  That is like a golf player that continually practices an improper golf swing.

Take a look at your own leadership development initiatives.  Rate them on a 1-5 scale (1 being poor and 5 being excellent) on how well you incorporate each of these elements.  Ask some of your leaders.  For those elements on which you scored yourself poorly, ask yourself how you could better incorporate them into your initiative.

This is not easy.  But let’s work together to develop leaders more effectively and have a greater impact on our organizations and the lives of the people in them.