Monday, March 13, 2017

Leaders Made Here by Mark Miller

“Let’s be clear on terms from the beginning. A leadership culture exists when leaders are routinely and systematically developed, and you have a surplus of leaders ready for the next opportunity or challenge” Mark Miller

When I was a newly minted manager, I had the same thought that so many others hold today, strong leaders just drop from the sky and hit the ground running. It didn't take long for me to learn that a leadership title means little and some of the worst leaders have titles. My exposure to different leadership styles was beneficial, and often the most effective leaders were quiet and purposeful. Leadership is a journey, and we all have the abilities within us, but most of us need guidance, development, and mentoring. 

Mark Miller’s new book Leaders Made Here is an entertaining and purpose driven book that shows us how leaders grow internally. Companies should develop leaders for future change and growth and guess what? Every company needs a surplus of highly developed leaders ready to jump into spots throughout an organization. Companies should create an active culture where leaders are developed and championed on an ongoing basis with the end goal of having a surplus of leaders. Mark leads us on a journey illustrating how to nurture leaders at all levels starting with the front lines and moving up the ranks. Moreover, Mark gives us a “game plan” for how we can grow our own leaders and the tools to employ for success.

What I enjoyed most about Leaders Made Here is how Mark shares his ideas to assist in developing others. Mark doesn’t just throw ideas, tools, and examples at us. Mark visually leads us down the leadership process by telling us a story. Who doesn't love a great story where we can join the characters in learning? 

Mark shares the story of Blake, a new CEO at a company that recently experienced some serious setbacks including a plant explosion. Blake quickly realizes that he needs guidance from outside the company to help him bring stability, change the culture, and grow leaders to fill gaps in the organization. Charles is an old colleague that Blake brings to join him on his journey to locate some best practice ideas from some key successful organizations around the world. Each company that they visit has a unique view on building leaders, offers questions for the team to ponder, and ideas to help them to form their practical plan to grow a leadership culture and cultivate future leaders.

How do you know when you have achieved a leadership culture? Simple. You have success when leaders are developed, and you have a surplus of energized and capable leaders waiting in the wings. Mark Miller reminds us that there may be some resistance to building a leadership culture from within and before we can develop we need to set excuses aside. Do these flimsy reasons sound familiar to you?

  • We don’t need a leadership culture. We are doing great
  • Leaders are born, not made
  • We are too busy to think about the future
  • Even if we wanted a leadership culture, we don’t know how to build one

Does the last point hit home to you? Leaders Made Here was written to help those of us who just don't know how to create a strong leadership culture. To learn how to build one we follow the visits of Blake's team to benchmark companies to glean ideas. Each organization they visit is unique in their industry, vary in size, and have gone about culturing leaders in a different way. At the end of each visit, Blake and Charles are asked some fundamental questions to mull over with their teams. Here is a snippet of some of the ideas from the teams that they met.

  • Mentoring matters
  • Clear goals and sound strategy
  • Give people an opportunity to lead early in their careers
  • The “leaders made here” phrase to focus on
  • Design internal benchmarks
  • Develop and use an internal scorecard
  • Leaders must walk the talk
  • Current leaders need to have buy-in or move aside
  • Develop complete unity

The partnering and enthusiasm of Blake’s team as they walk down the path of learning from others and bringing back best practices to the company is enjoyable for the reader to be a part. You will feel like you are on the team as they bounce ideas off of one another and formulate the end product of making leaders. The reader has a seat at the table in learning what Blake and Charlie’s team wrestles with and the thought processes that take place to bring them to the point where they share their vision of building leaders to the rest of the organization. It's a journey worth joining, and the process and ideas will be burned into your mind as if you were indeed there.

In the end, Blake's team is successful. Some leaders chose to stay their course and ultimately left the organization. Not everyone will win, and real leaders need to part ways when indifference impacts a group. The team lives the slogan "Leaders Made Here" and offered the organization five commitments of a leadership culture to drive success. They include;

  1. Define it
  2. Teach it
  3. Practice it
  4. Measure it
  5. Model it

If you have a hand in growing a leadership culture jumping into the journey with Blake’s team is a necessity. You will enjoy the leadership building story without even realizing how many ideas and knowledge that you are soaking up. Growing leaders is an intentional process, and every leader at any level should have a sound road map to guide them so that development bubbles both ways within a business. What will you do next to develop your leaders?

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