The Process of Developing Leadership Made Simple


Simplicity Beats Complexity when Developing Leadership

It may be the case that we all could succeed at developing leadership, in ourselves and others, with a super simple approach. That’s hard to believe considering all of the books and articles, not to mention pithy quotes, on developing leadership. Yet, a recent McKinsey and Company study, Decoding Leadership: What Really Matters (January 2015), provides new insight on the view that simplicity beats complexity in the realm of leadership.

Maybe you can think of someone you know who is a natural leader. Maybe you have watched someone develop into a truly collaborative leader. Like them, some of us aspire to be strong leaders and have a strong desire to understand leadership and develop our own leadership skills. The question is: Is leadership a skill that can be trained?

Leadership Development Training Can Add to Your Skills

According to the McKinsey study, there are four leadership behaviors that account for 89% of leadership effectiveness. They are:

  1. Solving problems effectively,
  2. Operating with a strong results orientation,
  3. Seeking different perspectives, and
  4. Supporting others

While developing business leadership can seem complex — especially when the marketplace is continuously changing, interpersonal conflicts arise and resources are scarce — these four fundamentals of collaborative leadership skills are behaviors that can be inculcated, practiced and achieved through the cultural adoption of processes and techniques.

Derived from centuries of military experience and improved through the application of cutting-edge modern psychological research, Flawless ExecutionSM reduces the complex challenge of effective leadership to simple tools and techniques that anyone can learn and apply. Although Flawless ExecutionSM (FLEX) is composed of an iterative cycle of 4 components – plan, brief, execute, and debrief – Flawless Execution addresses the four behaviors noted in the McKinsey study.

Plan – The FLEX Six Step Planning process helps focus the team and the leader on critical problems by using the power of multiple perspectives to identify pop-up threats and opportunities at the outset so that problems are identified and solved rapidly.

Brief – As the leader, this is your opportunity to ensure that everyone on the team understands the courses of action and the intended results. With consistent, daily briefings everyone understands how to lean in to achieve results.

Execute – The Flawless Execution framework provides for frequent check-ins to uncover any gaps between actual and planned results, allowing the leader and team to solve problems and stay focused on results even when team members are “too busy” to reflect, think and proceed effectively.

Debrief – The nameless, rankless S.T.E.A.L.T.H. Debrief fosters a leader-driven culture of constantly and consistently seeking different perspectives on lessons learned.

When leaders bring teams together using a common process that enables good collaboration, good analysis arises naturally from those processes. The FLEX model promotes leadership effectiveness by solving problems effectively, operating with a strong results orientation, seeking different perspectives, and supporting others.

Collaborative Leadership Helps Teams Perform Better

McKinsey and Company (The Case for Behavioral Strategy, March 2010) researchers demonstrated that having a good process may be as much as six times more important to positive outcomes as good analysis! Of course, both process and analysis are important. Flawless Execution is a powerful process model because its processes and techniques enable better leadership development.

Is it really simple?

It’s one thing to agree with McKenzie’s four leadership behaviors and consider them when developing leadership and building a collaborate leadership environment. It’s clearly another thing to practice those four skills every day in real life. Having a ‘leadership rhythm’ like Flawless Execution helps you keep those four leadership behaviors front and center, keeping you on track and accelerating your progress toward developing stronger leadership skills. FLEX supports collaborative leadership, grows you as a leader and, as a bonus, works as corporate leadership training for individuals on your team at the same time.

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Will Duke is Afterburner’s Director of Learning and Development. His duties include coordination of the development of intellectual property, training programs, and educational materials. He also serves as a consultant to process and continuous improvement management programs. With Co-author James “Murph” Murphy, he wrote the 2010 release “The Flawless Execution Field Manual. Duke currently serves as a senior Human Resources Officer in the in the U.S. Navy Reserve and has held numerous command and positions throughout his career.



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