How are you developing your company's leaders, and becoming a better leader yourself?

If you're focusing on competencies, then you're not taking a practical-enough approach. Todd Warner, founder of consultancy Like Minds Advisory, writes in Harvard Business Review about how great leaders must plug into the social systems of the business and master a few routines that help lead the troops.

"Leaders want to get better in the here-and-now, not to be judged against a competency map or be sold an abstract theory about what leadership should look like," Warner writes. 

Warner says these routines are specific to every company, like how you prepare for meetings. In order to figure out which ones you should be executing at your business, read the advice below.

Assess yourself

Warner suggests starting by asking yourself what your routines are. Write them down and assess them. Pinpoint where you spend your time and the habits you adhere to in meetings. "These routines will reveal opportunities for you to get better," he writes. "The personal habits that inform these routines are equally important: What is planned and what is emergent? When do you collaborate, and when do you execute? How do you listen, and to whom?"

Study your best leaders

Now it's time to find out what your company's best leaders are doing. Start talking to these high performers, and even shadow them. Ask them to lay out their most important routines. When Warner started using these methods at one organization, he said, people really responded. "Operational leaders could not stop talking about their best routines and where they struggled; they shared ideas about what makes a great routine; and they grasped the concept that leadership is an applied craft immediately," he writes.

Create a conversation about routines

Instead of judging your leaders on abstract competencies, focus on the real-life daily context of your company. "Shift the conversation about leadership to application and improvement, and away from discussions about scoring well on a 360-assessment or an employee survey once a year," Warner says.

Don't look for a formula

"A focus on competencies leads us to believe that there is a secret formula for great leadership. There isn't. Leadership is applied in many different ways in many different contexts," Warner says. Train your efforts on two routines you want to improve, and get feedback. With practice and understanding of your specific situation, you'll slowly get better.

Published on: Nov 12, 2015