Identifying and Filling the Gaps in Your Leadership Practice
Category : Leadership
After having lived in the Midwest most of my life, I have come to recognize spring as pothole repair season. It usually takes place from December to April as municipalities repair potholes caused by the snow, rain and ice from winter storms. Already in 2023, the city of Chicago has repaired 215,000 potholes. If not repaired, potholes can damage a car’s tires, alignment and undercarriage, as well as posing a problem for bicyclists.
As a southern California resident now, with the unusual amount of rain we’ve received during the first part of this year, San Diego is facing a similar problem. They normally repair 30,000 potholes a year, with estimates much higher for 2023. Additionally, if cracks and potholes aren’t promptly repaired, they could become larger problems as they grow and become more costly to repair. In the worst-case scenario, they could result in becoming a sinkhole, which is more costly for the municipality and automobile owner.
Leaders need to adopt this same mentality by identifying and filling the gaps (potholes) in their leadership practice. Our work helps leaders identify their gaps in comparison to an overall population average, to their organization level or to their team’s perception of their leadership behaviors.
In the examples below, Chris Jones’ Individual Assessment is below the population average on all of the leadership dimensions we measure. In the Team Gap Assessment, there are perception gaps between how they view Chris’ leadership and the team’s view with Chris perceiving higher leadership behavior on several dimensions. Compared to all Directors in the Organization Level Assessment, Chris is below average on all dimensions with significant gaps in the Assessing, Reflecting and Coaching dimensions.
Just like repairing potholes, leaders need to regularly spend time identifying and repairing gaps in their leadership practice. Leadership gaps, like potholes, can result in some serious problems or damage in the future if left unattended. Just like the annual pothole repair ritual, leaders must take time to evaluate their leadership practice before it damages their organization, their career or relationships with their team. Think of it like spring cleaning for your leadership. Some of the problems you can identify include:
- Alienating team member by failing to connect with them
- Missing opportunities to grow your team or organization
- Inconsistent practice of leadership
- Understanding and managing decision risk
- Lack of situational awareness
I recommend leaders take some quiet time away from work, their devices and others to ask themselves these questions:
- Have I grown as a leader in the past year?
- Has my leadership situation changed, such as, a change in the perspective of my followers, or have there been changes in my industry or work environment?
- Has my relationship with my direct reports, peers and supervisor grown?
- What have I learned about them that would make me a more valuable member of the team?
- What have I learned about them that would make them a move valuable member of the team?
- Should my leadership vision or philosophy be updated for a new situation?
These questions should honestly be addressed to prevent your gaps from becoming a sinkhole. Reviewing your answers with a coach or mentor will lend additional insights into your growth as a leader.
Some specific actions you can take include:
- Ask questions or share ideas in meetings even though they might be different from others.
- Engage more with your team members on business and personal levels.
- Ask your team members what they need from you to be more successful.
- Spend more time reflecting before and after your day or preparing for challenging meetings and conversations.
- Find a coach and mentor to help guide you with another perspective on your work and leadership.
Take some time in the next couple of weeks to complete this exercise. You will be a better leader heading into the rest of the year. To learn more about