Imperfectly Human

20150413_174747

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We are all imperfectly human.   We make mistakes. We do things that aren’t responsible.

Yes we ALL do things that aren’t responsible at times. If you think you’re exempt, let me ask you this. Have you never crept even one mile per hour over the speed limit? Have you never crossed the street outside of the marked cross walk? Have you never said something hurtful to another person?

Yes, we’re all imperfectly human. We need to plan ahead, to prepare ourselves for the moments when we may  be tempted to fall into imperfect behavior.

When we want to learn to drive a car, we learn safe and courteous driving rules. We practice driving for many hours on the road. We get feedback from experienced drivers and improve our driving over time. We eventually pass a driving test and are cleared to drive.

That leads me to wonder if we are preparing our leaders as carefully, or if we sometimes throw them into situations they are not prepared to handle. Do we give our “new leaders” the careful preparation we give new drivers? 

Are our leaders cleared to LEAD? 

Leaders do not think they are well prepared according the Ready-Now Leaders: DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2014-2015, which reports that “the overwhelming majority of leaders are still saying they are not satisfied with their organization’s development offerings.” Only “37% of leaders rated the quality of their organization’s development programs as high or very high.”

So where do we go from here?

Failing to prepare leaders for what they’ll face is not just potentially bad for their success, it’s also an ethical problem for their employees and for the organization. Without tools for handling complex challenges, people may make more mistakes than they need to. Some of those mistakes can be costly to the leader’s future and the organization’s reputation.

If we want leaders to be ready to handle the steep learning curve and the tough challenges that come with the job, we’ll need to do these things:

  • Help them handle the complexity that is a reality in their day-to-day leadership.
  • S-T-R-E-T-C-H them to help them prepare for the challenges they face as leaders in a global society.
  • Make them aware of their own mindsets and assumptions.
  • Build a sturdy culture based on positive ethical values.
  • Teach them how to PREVENT ethical problems, not just how to cope with them if they happen.
  • Show them how to add value for multiple constituents and think beyond themselves.
  • Provide clear support for ethical choices at all levels in the organization, including the C-Suite.
  • Make trust building a leadership priority.

Ask them if they’re ready

Ask your leaders how well prepared they think they are and listen carefully to their answers. Preparing leaders for success today requires much more than simply providing a training program and a handbook. It requires leadership development designed for people who are imperfectly human. 

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