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Don’t Be Afraid to Let Your Leaders Fall

2 min read

Ponder this for a minute: if your CEO was hit by a truck tomorrow, how would your organization deal with it?

Would any of your leaders or managers be able to step up and fill that role? Do they have the soft skills to take on that challenge? Have you let them innovate and grow, take risks and fail, for the sake of developing into great leaders?

Recently I spoke at the Linkage Global Institute for Leadership Development (GILD) Conference and was struck by the diversity of content that supported the theme of “Purposeful Leadership.” According to Linkage’s research, a purposeful leader is someone who embodies wisdom, conviction, responsibility, commitment, openness, and belief in others and their capabilities. The model that best supports this definition includes five “promises”:

  • Become
  • Inspire
  • Engage
  • Achieve
  • Innovate.

Business leaders and their teams must embody these promises to effectively manage their teams and steer their company through crisis and change at all levels of the organization. This message clearly resonated with the 400 leaders who attended the conference, representing multinationals to non-profits.

How risk connects to leadership

My keynote, entitled Fall Risk, was based on my recovery from a nearly fatal accident, getting hit by a truck while on my bicycle. I was labeled a “fall risk” by the doctors because my balance and strength were such that I couldn’t move safely.

I soon realized that to heal I needed to ignore that label and, with the assistance of talented healers, do exactly the opposite—I needed to risk falling. I started to take small steps toward recovery. My healers did what good leaders do: they helped me improve, to go from my weak state to an improved state, and they did so with a combination of empathy, motivation, encouragement, and goal setting—all elements of the five promises.

My healers let go and let me walk unassisted—to take small fall risks on my own. (I wrote an eBook about the experience—check it out here.)

Challenges to leaders

As you develop the leadership skills of your people, are you cultivating independent thinkers or are you a “helicopter leader”?

Are you giving people true stretch assignments or are you organizing safe “play dates” where you remove any chance of falling, and in doing so, eliminating the chance for initiative and growth?

Getting the next generation of leaders ready

As current leaders prepare high potentials and younger generations for leadership roles, we have to consider many more factors than in the past—multiple generations in the workforce, technology, remote workers, team collaboration, and personal development, among many others.

There’s no denying the importance of soft skills training as part of employee development and overall business success. After more than 25 years in business, Ariel knows that the best leaders are those who can communicate strategically and inspire and engage others by using their authentic presence. And we can help them get there with training, coaching, and mentoring.

At GILD, speaker after speaker, backed by years of research, reinforced the notion that authentic leaders who own their voice and use it to help others find their own voice, are the ones who will drive positive change in their organizations, their communities, and the world. A great and positive message in a world that can feel cynical.

What resonates with you about the way we’re thinking about leadership development? Would your organization survive (and thrive) if your leader was in a major accident tomorrow?

If you’re ready to build your organization’s communication and leadership skills, to help your new leaders risk falling, we’d love to hear from you.


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