How are you learning as a leader?
How are you leading?
And how are you developing others?
Can you sufficiently answer these questions about your leadership impact right now? As intentional and effective leaders, we should be able to.
Two primary goals for 3×5 Leadership are to (1) help make other leaders more intentional and (2) deliberately developmental in how they lead. Defining how we learn, lead, and develop others are all critical aspects to achieve those. To maximize our effectiveness and efficiency in these efforts, we need to model how we achieve each of those through an operating framework.
An operating framework is a representation that serves as a guide to areas of emphasis and behaviors around a particular topic. It models components and relationships as a system to explain how it works.
Leaders need to have operating frameworks for how we learn, how we lead, and how we develop others.
Why We Need Operating Frameworks
Operating frameworks provide us several key benefits that are worth considering.
- Structure & organization: A framework allows us to purposefully model relationships and processes, which help us better understand what we are doing, how we are, and why.
- Clarity: It helps us focus on the activities and relationships that add value to guide action. It also enables reflection – to consider possible blind spots, gaps, or areas for revision/improvement.
- Intention: It gives purpose to what activities we do and why we do them within the framework. Our actions are no longer whimsical, random, or merely reactionary. A defined framework provides purpose to our behaviors and activities.
- Inspiration: Defining our framework can ultimately help us remain better committed and aligned to what we are intending to achieve through it.
The 3 Frameworks You Need as a Leader
1. Learning Framework – How do I learn?
Simon Sinek, author of books like Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last, states that, “Leadership is an education, and the best leaders think of themselves as students, not the teachers.” Intentional leadership requires a commitment to continuous learning. But simply reading a book that a colleague randomly recommended or reading whatever online article or blog that pops up is not sufficient. What are you learning? Why are you focused on learning that? And how are you going about learning it?
Further, we all have preferred means of learning. So, your ways to sustain continued learning as a leader are going to be unique. We need to model our particular activities, how we phase them, and what their relationships are. Consider if your framework is more like a cyclical iterative process or an open system (if so, what are the inputs, outputs, and processes in-between?).
Examples: I recommend you explore Ryan Hawk’s book, Welcome to Management. In it, he introduces the concept of a learning framework and offers his personal cyclical model, which is a simple and great example to consider. Additionally, you can reference my personal learning framework here, which follows an open-system representation.
Questions to ask yourself as you’re designing your learning framework:
- How do I prefer to learn? What is the role of thinking, talking/discussing, and doing for me?
- What is the role of new information, my experiences, and reflection in how I learn?
- Where do I start when learning something new?
- How and when do I begin a habit or internalization of a new behavior?
2. Leadership Philosophy – How do I lead?
What are the key ways that you achieve results for your organization and make it (and the people) better? We need to capture the primary ways we impact others as leaders in our own, unique way. A leadership philosophy provides us clarity in action and priorities, consistency in our leadership, self-awareness, and a reflective guide for continued improvement.
Our leadership philosophy as a framework contains two main components: our authentic leadership style and the particular needs of our organization now. By identifying both and layering them together, we are capturing impactful ways that we can lead and influence while meeting our organization’s most pressing needs.
Example: Read 3×5 Leadership’s Defining Our Leadership Philosophy article, which outlines the leadership philosophy framework and guides you through steps to build your own. You can also watch the recording of our webinar, which explores the topic deeper here.
Questions to ask yourself as you’re designing your leadership philosophy:
- What are natural ways that I aim to influence results and improvement?
- How do I prefer to interact with others?
- What roles do I tend to fill on teams?
- What are my team’s current needs?
3. Leader Development Model – How am I developing other leaders?
Lastly, we need to define how we are developing other leaders. Simon Sinek is also famed for stating, “The greatest contribution of a leader is to make other leaders.” Developing others is not a passive act. We can’t communicate (outright or subconsciously) that by simply watching how I lead will serve as your leader development. That is not taking ownership of, making a deliberate investment into, or caring for the growth of other leaders.
How and what we develop in our leaders matters too. How is what we are developing and the ways we are doing so connected to our organization’s purpose, values, and needs? Our framework must be nested within these greater contexts, feasible with sustainable activities, and impactful to develop the 2nd and 3rd generations of leaders many years behind us.
The model can also take a wide variety of design forms. Similar to the learning framework, it could be cyclical or an open system. It could also be more static, like a pyramid, etc. I believe there is a great deal of latitude in the design of your leader development model.
Examples: You can read more in-depth on leader development frameworks and approaches in the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook, particularly in the How Are We Actually Developing Leaders? article. Additionally, you can reference a leader development framework that I created and implemented in one of my previous leadership roles here.
Questions to ask yourself as you’re designing your leader development model:
- What do we need from our leaders?
- Where are leadership voids or vacuums?
- What activities target those needs? How?
- What is the relationship, process, phases, or hierarchy of developmental activities?
I intend for this to be an introduction to three important leadership frameworks for you to begin modeling your own. The process may take multiple attempts, with time for reflection, experience, and learning between each attempt. These are also living documents that often meet particular needs at a particular time – they will never be perfect. But they improve our effectiveness just by creating them and make us intentional by always looking for ways to improve them. I encourage you to start the process by trying to capture how you perceive your current framework to be. From there you can progress through a simple series of steps:
- Model your current framework with existing activities (how it is now) for your learning, leading, and development. Model them as a coherent system through relationships, processes, and progressions as they interact now.
- Take some time to identify what gaps exist in the current model. You can do this through personal thinking and reflection, mentorship conversations, and seeking feedback from others or your team.
- Research options for how to fill those gaps and/or add “what else” to your framework. Research can include mentorship conversations, etc.
- Update and/or add to your model. Remember to ensure it is sustainable (not overbearing, preventing you and others from enacting it successfully over time).
- Test it over a window of time. Revise as necessary.
- Return to step 2 and repeat!
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