Importance of Mentored "Sherpa" Leadership Development
Who's your leadership Sherpa? Leadership Development happens only when knowledge and mentorship are both employed.
You have probably heard of Sherpas - especially the Sherpas who help Mt. Everest climbers. Sherpas are historically an ethnic group who are generally expedition workers, or porters for climbers. However, they have an essential skill that is critical to anyone who is attempting the mammoth task of climbing Mt. Everest. That skill is knowledge - "Been there, done that knowledge." Things that books of knowledge cannot teach or provide you. If a climber were to depend on book knowledge to climb Everest - they would likely die trying. Everest has thousands of ways to maim or kill a climber. Leadership development is certainly not climbing Everest, but it can be just as challenging. However, just as climbing Everest, if you don't have someone who is Sherpa like helping you along your way, your journey is bound to be fraught with many more possible dangers of failure.
If your goal is to improve your leadership, you cannot depend on knowledge and education alone. Leadership Development happens only when knowledge and mentorship (or Sherpaship) are both employed. Leadership development has millions of nuances that can never be learned by books alone; you have to experience it. But in leadership, just as in mountain climbing, your "experience" with a "nuance" may be your last. Your one experience with a single nuance could mean the end of your career, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization. A Sherpa helps you along the trail but is also there to save you in case of a misstep.
If you have a leadership Sherpa, s/he would probably have already pointed out the potential for problems like this and suggested ways to avoid them altogether, or methods to take needed action if confronted with such a problem. However, even more, is that knowledge that the Sherpa can be there to offer h/er hand to help you through whatever issues you may encounter.
What To Look For in a Leadership Development Service
If you have been looking for leadership development, you know the plethora of options available. However, you need to choose carefully. Here are the Top 3 Things to look for in a quality Leadership Development service.
Assessment (Know Themselves) - The first step to leadership development is to discover the leader's strengths and gaps in the different styles of leadership. Every leadership development group has a template for leadership that uses leadership styles. Usually, there are around six different styles. Detailed assessments are necessary to expose these strengths and gaps. Why Is This Important? Great leaders can have skills and capabilities in different leadership styles, which allows them to pull from these different styles to handle the various leadership challenges they face every day. If a leader is not aware of their strengths and gaps in these styles they have no clue what abilities they have, and what they need to work on to improve their leadership.
Understand Whom They Lead - If a leader does not understand whom they lead, they will fail - ALWAYS. Unfortunately for employees, most leaders don't have a clue. Therefore, a leadership development service needs to have multiple processes (e.g., 360's, assessments, questionnaires, Etc.) to discover the Culture and the needs, wants, and desires of the Team and individual. Why Is This Important? Great leaders know their teams and lead them accordingly to what recipe of leadership styles and capabilities will best work for them. They realize they lead INDIVIDUALS who have needs, wants, and desires. They know that the leader/team relationship is like a marriage. Support; give and take, understanding, love (no not the sex kind of love - the agape kind of love), and more…
Sherpa Involvement - Leadership, cannot be developed without some mentoring and hand-holding - there is no such thing as "A Born Leader." Sure, leaders can be born with certain innate qualities and capabilities that make leadership easier for them, but they still need to be mentored by an experienced Sherpa who has been there and done it. (Read this great article about Sherpas that supports the science of this concept Click Here). A leadership Sherpa who works with a leader who knows themselves, and understands who they lead, will be able to help blend the two to ensure a successful marriage between the two. Why Is This Important? Just like great Sherpas, who have been raised by other great Sherpas, the same applies to great leaders. If the leadership development service does not provide leadership Sherpas, who have been there and done it, and will work directly with a developing leader (not merely by lectures or videos alone), avoid them. If you think you want to use a no Sherpa type of service for leadership development, save your money and buy a book.