July 13, 2011

Psychology and Leadership Development

Executive coaching is now a key learning strategy implemented by companies who understand the difficult challenges facing leaders today.  Given the rate of change and complexity associated with most industries, it is difficult for managers to move into senior leadership roles without honing their skills;  executive coaching is only one way to do this but it appears to be more effective than many of the alternatives.

As a Psychologist and Executive Coach, I am sometimes asked, "What does psychology have to do with executive development?" This is an understandable question. Most people associate psychology with mental health clinics or therapy; however, psychology is not just about fixing problems, it is also about making good things better.

People are often promoted into management roles because of technical or functional business capabilities:  ability to get results, make decisions, develop premium products or services and deliver them on time. Intellectual strengths are also key, along with a sound understanding of business processes and finances. As people move up the organizational chart they find additional competencies are critical, and this is often where psychology becomes especially important. Developing strategic relationships, building effective teams, managing conflict, dealing with high levels of stress---these are just a few of the competencies required of successful leaders.

These skills are sometimes referred to as soft skills but in reality there is nothing soft about them. They are at the core of good leadership and they essentially have to do with: who we are, why we do what we do, and whether or not we are successful.

Business functional and technical knowledge is certainly important; however,  it is "necessary but insufficient". Those soft and squishy characteristics we usually associate with the world of psychology will present many a challenge to leaders and companies throughout the globe.  

Leader know thyself: are you up for the challenge?

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