How to Fix Corporate America’s Leadership Crisis

Daniel Montgomery Culture

DANIEL MONTGOMERY
Founder & CEO
Leadership Reality

On November 8, 2017, the Golden State Warriors had a problem. 

After suffering a nasty thigh contusion a few days before, their superstar, Kevin Durant, was forced to sit out that night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

For plenty of teams, this would be a disaster. But not for Golden State. 

Omri Casspi, JaVale McGee, Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney, Nick Young—names you wouldn’t recognize unless you were a hard-core Warriors fan—jumped in to score an unheard-of 57 points from the bench and propel the Warriors to a decisive victory.

What does that have to do my business? 

In a survey conducted by DDI, 84% of the respondents expected to fall short of their leadership needs within 5 years. And, while they recognized the need for leadership development, only 5% had implemented a holistic plan for making that happen. Even worse, 25% had a succession plan in place for only 10% of their critical leaders.

In other words, corporate America’s got a thin bench. And, as the Kevin Durants of the business world duck out for greener pastures, nobody’s coming in to pick up the ball.  

Filling Out the Bench

Leadership development is messy. It takes time, energy, and patience; three commodities your average executive can’t afford to blow on a junior employee.

So, what do they do? They outsource. Leaders institute programs, hand out books, send employees out for training, and bring in outside consultants.

Don’t get me wrong. Those are all good things. I believe in those things. I offer those things. But as strategic Band-Aids on a cultural wound, they fail to grasp a deeper reality about what it takes to cultivate true leaders in an organization.

Leading the One to Lead the Many

Before I entered the business world, I spent 17 years at the helm of a large church in Louisville, as well as a network of nearly 50 churches spread across the United States. 

In both those capacities, I wasn’t just responsible for my staff and the pastors in our network. I had to care for the roughly 4,000 people who came to Sojourn every week—not to mention the thousands of members and attendees in our network churches.

How do you do that? How do you multiply influence across a span like that?

In the Christian faith, we consider everyone in the pew to be something of a leader. We just use a different word: disciple. There’s something counterintuitive here; a disciple is someone who follows—a pupil under the tutelage of his or her master.

But this “followership” always has a goal—to make the disciple healthy and mature in the faith so they can then turn around and lead others.

Call it the Church’s organic leadership program and, humanly speaking, it’s the killer app that grew a 12-man startup into a global juggernaut of more than 2 billion members.

In the Christian faith, we consider everyone in the pew to be something of a leader. We just use a different word: disciple. #followership #leaders Click To Tweet

Turning Your Leaders into Disciples

Breathe easy; I’m not suggesting you convert everyone in your office to Christianity. No, what I have in mind works regardless of how your employees spend their Sundays. 

What I’m talking about is taking the discipleship model and applying it your business so that you can start developing leaders who will shepherd your company into the future.

What might that look like?

  • Build a Discipleship Culture — Get employees excited about both giving and receiving wisdom. Captivate them with your driving mission and invite them to play an integral part in helping one another to achieve that vision.
  • Make Yourself Available – You’ll need a healthy balance between structured and unstructured time. Carve out and plan for a scheduled appointment where you and your “disciples” meet to discuss specific issues. At the same time, give them an open invitation to come and brainstorm if they need to.
  • Invite them into Your Brain – Seasoned leaders often suffer from ‘expert blindspot.’ You’ve been around so long that even the more complicated aspects of leadership have become like second nature to you. Give your junior leaders the benefit of your wisdom by slowing down, walking through your process, and inviting them to explore the underlying rationale that drives your thinking. 

Conclusion

What’s your current plan for developing leaders? Do you have one? If not, then can you think of a single leader in your organization you might consider a ‘disciple?’

The Timberwolves are coming to town, and your star players aren’t going to last forever. Do you have a deep enough bench to pick up their slack?

If not, then consider this your wake-up call. 

 

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