Leadership attributes can be learnt ‘very early and rapidly’: Expert

by L&D22 Sep 2016
A lot of senior leaders move through very clear hierarchies to get to where they are, said Dr Marcus Bowles, Director of Institute for Working Futures and DeakinDigital Strategic Consultant.

As much as we like to think otherwise, a lot of that is based on “seniority, doing the miles, and having experience under the belt”. Consequently, it can take people a very long time to become a senior leader, Bowles told L&D Professional.

However, there are people who have incredible leadership potential and are just starting out on their journey.

“The more that you accelerate them on the career pathway, the more their capabilities come into play and their personal characteristics will grow,” he said.

“You can create a very effective leadership program for some people that might take five years to get to a very senior role.

“But for other people it might well take them 30 years to achieve the same capability levels or they may never achieve them.”

Some attributes are things that young people can acquire “very early and very rapidly”. These include agility, collaboration and the ability to create a vision.

Leaders need to understand themselves, Bowles added. They need to understand what their flaws are in terms of the strengths that they need and the strengths that might take them in a different direction.

However, Bowles emphasised that it’s “incredibly contextual”.

“You might be an effective leader in one context, but you might be a substandard leader in another context. For another organsiation, you might be exactly the person they are looking for,” he said.

“I think that many people think that it’s one-size-fits-all and as you move up the ladder your leadership capabilities stay the same. It absolutely isn’t the case.”

Dr Marcus Bowles is the designer of the DeakinDigital Leadership Credentials; a pioneering capability framework that assists organisations to identify and develop future leaders within existing leadership programs.

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