Leadership Development – more than a chess game

I’m not a great chess-player, yet I did enjoy reading about the world championships in New York recently, and of course it got me thinking about leadership development

A ‘game of chess’ is more than a game.   As well as the political intrigue, the public pronouncements on the fitness of the players – which sound like a more genteel version of a pre-fight boxing bout – there are the celebrities and the hangers-on; the rivalries and the red-carpet receptions.

The big difference between the games of today and the cold war matches is that fans can follow on their smartphones – if they don’t have the time or funds to watch the matches live.

And what’s this to do with leadership?

Players talk about their opponents ‘resilience’; their ‘adaptability’ or ‘flair for creativity’.  There’s more than one match at stake.  They represent the wit and intelligence of their countries.

Like the chess grandmasters, it’s vital that leaders know and understand each and every one of their people.  What they are capable of.  What their strengths are.

By the way, they don’t seem to have a term for female ‘grandmasters’ yet.  But there’s as many women in the world top ten as on Boards in the FTSE 350 (20%).

It can sound dispassionate to describe moving people around like on a chessboard – yet it is vital that everyone is in the best role for their skills and strengths – at just the right time.

In today’s uncertainty and pace of change, it makes a huge difference to know that you have the right people in the team, ready to flex and shift as situations demand.

Yet, too often, we’re still working in more rigid ways.

Someone gets a job title and that becomes a fixed part of their mindset.  They become less task-focused and more status-aware.  Something a team member was willing to contribute to, now becomes ‘beneath them’ – and I’m not talking about making the tea here.

It matters even more when rewards such as pay rises and promotions are less available.  Job title and relative position – “I am a Knight and you are a Pawn” take on heightened importance.  And it never pays to underestimate the pawns…

So helping people stay in a flexible mindset by developing their leadership skills and behaviours is a vital solution.

This isn’t about position.

Today’s leadership development is about evidenced-based competencies; consistent application, flexed to the situation leaders face in the moment.  It’s about stepping up and taking responsibility – wherever we are in the pecking order.

What’s so powerful about the new leadership development is that it’s emotionally-fulfilling too.  Leaders grow and develop their own skills and have the satisfaction of seeing their teams becoming more empowered and delivering better performance too.

So if your job is to improve the performance of your people and teams – whatever the challenge – start thinking like a grandmaster.

And if you want tangibly better leadership, get in touch. You’ll find us at +44 (0) 345 077 2980 option 1, or email info@thefortongroup.com

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