Do your employees still associate leadership with being a manager or executive? If so, it’s time to update your thinking.
Many leadership skills are needed at the individual contributor level. Early-career professionals and functional experts are increasingly working across boundaries or in matrixed organizations. They are steering projects and people — even if they have no direct reports or formal management roles.
Debasree Chakrabarti is a good example. Based in Singapore, she is vice president, Change Management with BSI Bank, a Swiss Italian private bank. Her role is to implement a range of change programs; yet, she has no direct reports or team to lead. Her success is tied to influencing and operating across the global matrix, and she was looking for insight on how to lead effectively.
Westley du Pont is working in a different context, but was also seeking to strengthen her leadership and influencing skills. As an associate in the Office of Engagement and Annual Giving at the University of Virginia, she organizes, tracks, or assists with a wide variety of grants and projects with staff, alumni, and students. It’s a very collaborative role, and she wanted to increase her confidence and have greater impact. Guided by an HR leader or boss, they both were open to learning — but a bit wary that a short program could make a notable difference. Today, each can point to ideas and skills they learned that are making a difference in their day-to-day work. They recently shared some of their thoughts about the program with Leading Effectively.
Debasree: “The two concepts I really liked were Direction, Alignment and Commitment (DAC) and identifying the learning types. It’s amazing how the approach towards people can change depending on their learning types. It becomes easier for us to get the most out of the people as their expectations and their pattern of working become clear.”
Westley: “Lean into the dip is about getting to that point where you are uncomfortable with something and how that means you have the opportunity to learn and make a growth leap. Or you can back off … Leadership Fundamentals gave me tools to lean into the dip better, how to negotiate that dip in a way that will allow me to take lessons away from it, and trust that I’ll grow in the process even though it’s hard along the way. And also to have grace and compassion for myself and others on the journey.”
Perspective on the program structure
Westley: “I appreciated the overall planning and process of the program over the two days. I realize we all process differently, but Leadership Fundamentals seemed to accommodate everyone without losing its focus. The Learning Type Measure exercises certainly demonstrated that there were many modes in the room.”
Debasree: “I found the course very interactive and well run by the instructors. There was a great mix of participants from various industries. The content was rich and stimulating.”
Impact back at work
Debasree: “I am currently practicing what I have learned, though in baby steps. In every project I manage, I apply the concept of DAC, which helps me to get to the final focus and direction. Based on that, we align the resources, deliverables and people. Finally, I manage to get commitment from stakeholders regarding timelines and deadlines for each activity.
“Additionally, knowing the learning types of my stakeholders helps me to understand them better, how they look at a problem, what approach they will be adopting to resolve the issue, what kind of potential questions they would ask, etc. I can better manage the people and help in mitigating conflicts when there are stakeholders in the room who are of different learning types.”
“Frankly, management of people is the most difficult job especially with changing organization structures, a global work force and challenging work environments. Concepts to help with this were in the program, so I would definitely recommend it.”
Westley: “I think the biggest change has been the level of confidence I feel when considering what I can contribute in a given situation. I’m much more likely to believe that I have something to bring to the table now.
“Leadership Fundamentals gave me new ways to look at things as they come up — how to make meetings better, how to work with a negative colleague, how to look at a difficult situation and lean into it instead of turning away from it.
“I really have no desire to formally manage people, but I know that it’s possible to lead without a title and effect change. I’ve already done so and hopefully will continue to.”
Sourced from the Center for Creative Leadership