Guest Post from Lauren Schuckel

There’s a deficit plaguing the U.S. economy: American businesses are lacking adaptive and strategic leaders. Decision Pulse, a business strategy consultancy, reports that 56 percent of the corporate leaders it surveyed predicted shortages in strong executive-level leadership as of 2012. Likewise, Development Dimensions International (DDI), a talent scouting agency, states in its 2011 Global Leadership Forecast that 44 percent of leaders surveyed describe their style as “too bureaucratic.”

Leadership DevelopmentDDI also estimates that companies with strong leaders outperformed competitors by 13 times in bottom-line metrics, including financial performance, in 2011. That’s because leaders engage in every aspect of a company’s performance, from employee retention rates to customer satisfaction. Agile leaders are particularly valuable: research generated by MIT suggests that agility grows revenue by 37 percent, with agile firms pulling in 30 percent more profits than non-agile competitors.

Clearly, more leadership development is in order. The following eight dimensions are essential to agile, high-performing leaders across all industries and can be cultivated independently as well as through directed training sessions. Growing strong leaders may be an investment, but overlooking leadership in any organization is far more expensive.

Eight Dimensions of Leadership Development

Dimension 1 – Preparation: Agile leaders are knowledgeable both in their fields and in the practice of leadership, acquiring foundational competencies through education, professional experience or both. But what truly makes a leader great isn’t acquired information—it’s an attitude. Great leaders are always learning, adapting to innovative technology and economic changes with open minds and a desire for unfiltered feedback from others.  They see value even in failure, scrutinizing mistakes and culling information at every stage of production, all day every day.

Dimension 2 – Character: In a word, leaders have integrity. They don’t see business ethics as an impingement, an obstacle to maneuver around, but as a defining feature of the way they do business. In an economy still suffering the aftershocks of ethically unsound financial practices, a strong moral character that flows from the top down can help grow customers, as many Americans now spend their dollars more cautiously on products and services that they can feel good about.

Dimension 3 – Principles: Extensions of character, principles are the basic tenets that support a leader’s “big message” – the main idea that every business leader (and every business) wants to express. Principles and message are where innovation intersects with character, and the result is a dynamic expression of purpose that holds true in action, not just on paper.

Dimension 4 – Personality: Leaders are charismatic, capable of making other people feel as valued and unique as they truly are. They radiate authenticity and aren’t afraid to humanize even the most abstract or serious professional encounter. While personality can’t be taught, the right training can help potential leaders become genuinely comfortable with others and themselves, which is critical when motivating an entire team in a competitive market. Personality is also where a natural inclination toward one style of leadership – perhaps the affiliative, with its emphasis on teamwork, or the visionary, crucial in times of dramatic change – comes to bear. The best leaders, however, know themselves well enough to draw on various styles of leadership as each situation demands.

Dimension 5 – Performance: Leaders aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and inspire action in others with their demonstrably strong work ethic. Working hard in various roles and alongside the employees who keep daily operations running allows leaders to cultivate a granular knowledge of how their industries function, providing them even more information from which to derive solutions. It also reinforces authenticity and emphasizes accessibility. A leader separated from the workforce in a corner office, to whom employees are too intimidated to speak, won’t receive the feedback necessary to innovate. Performance also keeps leaders from falling victim to “analysis paralysis,” the tendency only to think abstractly, rather than think globally and then act practically.

Dimension 6 – Experience: Experience is acquired by looking beyond the regional or local for ideas, input and innovation. Great leaders have “peripheral vision”: the ability to see potential greatness in fringe enterprises or ideas. They are fluent in the international status of their industry and never stop scanning the horizon, rather than staring straight ahead. They network continuously, acquiring new data and generating enthusiasm with everyone they meet.

Dimension 7 – Expression: This is where leaders share the wealth of their experience, whether through mentoring, training future leaders, writing for trade or business journals, speaking publically or consulting. Agile leaders are driven to express themselves not only because they believe their ideas have value for others, but because those ideas are, by nature, synergistic and drawn from years of employee, peer and even competitor input. In other words, they speak not just for themselves, but for all the people who have helped them achieve greatness over the years.

Dimension 8 – Influence: With expression comes influence, the ability to revolutionize industry practices and transform modern business. It is the state of being sought after, not just seeking, and it is reserved for the most successful leaders, the great minds of our time like business analyst Gary Hamel, ranked the #1 business mind in the world by the Wall Street Journal, and scholar Warren Bennis, author of the seminal Leaders.

While it certainly helps, it doesn’t take public acknowledgement or rankings for industry leaders to wield influence. As long as leaders continue to learn from others, keeping the first dimension of their training as central as the last, influence will inevitably develop—and businesses everywhere will benefit.

 Is there a 9th Dimension you would add?


Guest Author

LaurenLauren has been interested in Leadership training since she graduated college in May of this year. Leadership development is a growing part of her interest in developing her job into a career. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in English Literature.