An Easy Tool To Reduce the Complexity of Leadership Development

AdVance Leadership » An Easy Tool To Reduce the Complexity of Leadership Development

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #021. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll understand the power of establishing traits that every leader at your company should have.

1 Insight

A Leadership Framework is a set of 3-10 traits required for someone to lead at your company. It is the easy tool to reduce the complexity of leadership development.

Leadership Can Be Overwhelming

We recently asked a group of executives how they continued to grow as leaders. In a candid moment, one participant confessed, “I used to love shopping in the management section of bookstores. I soaked up the information. But now, I get overwhelmed when I walk into a bookstore.”

He paused, and his face dropped.

He continued, “As I peruse the titles, I’m forced to pick one narrow aspect of growing as a leader: vision, meetings, strategic planning, taking responsibility, accountability, hard conversations. Then I start thinking about how complex leadership is. Instead of narrowing down the ways that I need to grow, the complexity overtakes me. Why does leadership have to be so challenging? If I’m struggling with the complexity for my own leadership development, how in the world can I figure out how to help other leaders in my company in their development?

Our friend wanted to develop his own leadership and the leadership abilities of people at his company. But the complication made it overwhelming. People tend to avoid complexity in life. We want simplicity. If you’re going to grow leaders at your company, you must reduce the complexity.

The Easy Tool to Reduce Complexity in Leadership Development

There are four building blocks of developing leaders at your company:

  1. Define “leader.”
  2. Describe the traits of a leader.
  3. Enable leadership conversations.
  4. Create Leadership Pathways, not programming.


Building Block #2 – describing the traits of a leader at your company – is an easy tool to reduce the complexity of leadership development for yourself and others. When you identify the traits of a leader at your company, you create a Leadership Framework.

A Leadership Framework is a set of 3-10 traits required for someone to lead at your company. These traits are universal for every leader hired – from the CEO to the front-line manager.

By using a Framework, you clarify your company’s beliefs about what a leader is. The greater your clarity, the easier you can develop more and better leaders.

Our company, AdVance Leadership, helps companies develop the leaders they need to succeed. One of the ways we do this is through our Unleash Your Leaders training program. It’s a program that helps your company’s leaders grow in 7 traits that solve 95% of leadership challenges: 

  1. Character
    Leaders take responsibility and do what’s right, even when it’s difficult.
  1.  Competence
    Leaders develop the skills that their team and organization need for future growth.
  1. Capacity
    Leaders need time, energy, and attention to guide their teams.
  1.  Clarity
    Leaders must share where the organization is going, how it’s getting there, and what each person’s role is in getting there.
  1.  Community
    Leaders create an environment of safety, individual growth, collaboration, and trust for everyone they lead.
  1. Culture
    Leaders shape the behaviors of the team in accordance with the core values.
  1.  Consistency
    Leaders exhibit the same attitudes, messaging, and vision every single day.

Reasons Your Company Needs a Leadership Framework

There are six benefits to developing a Leadership Framework at your company.

1. A framework makes it easier for current leaders to grow. 

Whether you have a company of 10 or 10,000 employees, your company needs leaders. And you need leaders who are going to continually grow and develop over the years. But – just like the executive in the opening story – leadership can be complex. Complexity stunts growth.

A framework makes the development of current and future leaders less complicated. Each current leader knows that he or she needs to continually grow in those areas identified in your Framework. It narrows down the range of growth opportunities to a few possibilities.

2. A framework helps you develop potential future leaders. 

Most companies need a leadership pipeline — a system that prepares potential leaders for future leadership roles. A framework helps your pipeline in two ways:

1) Identifying potential leaders. A framework helps you find people in the organization who already have some of the traits that you’re looking for.

2) Grooming potential leaders. Once you know a person has leadership potential, a framework helps them continue growing in those characteristics.


3. A framework makes leadership less intimidating. 

People, by nature, avoid doing things that intimidate them. Whether it’s skydiving or learning to play an instrument, people shy away from anything scary.

You have people in your company who have already demonstrated leadership potential. But they don’t want to pursue management roles because leadership can be intimidating.

Our society often idolizes “big” leaders: people like John Maxwell, Jack Welsh, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Wooden, and Jeff Bezos. When people compare themselves to those leaders, they get intimidated (understandably so).

But when you shrink leadership at your company to a few core traits, intimidation shrinks. A person doesn’t need to become the next Oprah Winfrey; she simply needs to grow in a few traits over time. The less intimidating something is, the more likely they are to engage with it.

4. A framework helps evaluate outside hires.

Ideally, your pipeline should account for the majority of your hiring. But sometimes you must hire externally.

A Leadership Framework helps you assess if the person you’re hiring has the traits that you want all of your leaders to have. You can use the traits to ask interview questions and when you’re checking references.

5. A framework helps you start developing leaders faster.

We’ve talked to hundreds of executives who wanted to develop leaders in their companies. When we ask them why they haven’t done it, one answer often comes up: We don’t know where to start. 

A Leadership Framework simplifies the process of getting started. You know that you have a handful of traits that you need to focus on throughout your company.

6. A framework helps employees develop life-long leadership growth. 

You might be thinking to yourself, “Doesn’t a framework over-simplify leadership? It’s too basic when a person only has to develop a few characteristics rather than growing over a lifetime.” We’re glad you brought this up.

Frameworks actually have the opposite effect. In fact, a good Leadership Framework unleashes growth for a lifetime. For example, in our Leadership Framework, Clarity is a key trait. 

  • A potential future leader might increase his Clarity by identifying his personal priorities each week.
  • As he grows to a front-line manager, he will need to clarify the team’s priorities, plans, and processes.
  • When he is promoted to a role on the Executive Team, he’ll need to create clarity around the company’s purpose and long-range priorities.

The simplicity of the Leadership Framework helps him experience a lifetime of growth.

Developing leaders doesn’t have to be complex. Make it simpler by using a Leadership Framework.

1 Action

Identify 3-10 traits that you believe every leader at your company should have and share them with your team.


Want to help your company unleash its leaders?

  1. Get your team to subscribe to the Friday411 newsletter.
  2. Get your copy of Gettin' (un)Busy, named by Forbes as “one of the books everyone on your team should read.”
  3. Email Garland to train your company’s leaders. We will equip them with 7 traits that solve 95% of their leadership challenges.
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