Divante Leadership Development Program answers the question “What makes a great leader?”

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The Divante Leadership Development Program was designed for leaders but everyone in the company will benefit from the increased understanding of how to balance internal relationships against the drive for results. 

  • The year-long program involves monthly meetings for 80 employees 
  • As a people-first organization, Divante aims to achieve results while elevating employees
  • The Leadership Program dovetails with the introduction of an internal NPS, to constantly rate and monitor staff wellbeing

Should great leaders focus on results or people?

What makes a great leader? The question is simple but the answer is complex. The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tze said “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done and his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” 

The modern way of thinking about leadership is quite different. When I worked in a small start-up, one of the leaders was very emotional about others and wanted them to always feel good. Business results and budgets took second place, so he most often didn’t hit the targets. Years later, I worked in a corporation in which one of the bosses used to say that “people are just resources”. He also said to one of the leaders that “Employees are supposed to be afraid of you, not like you”. As you may imagine, he wasn’t popular among employees but got results. Which one of them was right? Should leaders focus on results or on people?

James Zenger surveyed over 60,000 employees to identify which characteristics make leaders “great” in the eyes of their employees. Zenger looked at two characteristics: “results-focus” and “people-focus”. His reports state that being perceived as a results-focused person led to only a 14% chance of being seen as a great leader. On the other hand, leaders who focused on social skills had only a 12% chance of being viewed as great leaders. 

Leadership Training is a hands-on process, working in teams

The key to success in that regard is to be balanced. Those leaders who combined social skills and results orientation increased their score to 72%. A great leader should be focused on results, problem-solving, and contact with clients, but also have a concern about the emotions and feelings of the people doing the work.

Leaders face a new reality as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The rules have changed dynamically and businesses have to adapt. Leaders play a crucial role in keeping pace and adapting to the new reality. In Divante, we see strong leadership in this hard time thanks, in part, to the Leadership Development Program we kicked off in January 2020.

Patryk Serkowski, Head of Product Design Team at Divante, during the Leadership Development Program workshop

Training new, existing, and future leaders in Divante

The training involves about 80 people from different departments. The participants were mixed and divided into four groups. The plan assumes one training per month, every month, for at least one year, starting from January 2020.

“We wanted to prepare new leaders well for their tasks. In many cases, these are technical specialists who have never been taught to be leaders or managers. We also want to help our employees who are already leaders by augmenting their knowledge and reminding them of good practices. People who are not leaders but show clear leadership potential also take part in the training.”

Renata Hara, HR Specialist at Divante

The main objective of the training is to increase the competence of leaders. Divante wants to achieve this through the exchange of knowledge between people who are leaders. Practical exercises are put above theory. The theory is important to clarify certain concepts but it is only an introduction to group work.

Katarzyna Pawłowicz, Junior IT Recruiter at Divante, during one of the Leadership Development Program sessions in February 2020

The Leadership Development Program gives a space to exchange knowledge. In Divante, there are many leaders with different degrees of experience: from newcomers who are learning how to be a good leader to people with great experience who have been successfully bringing their teams together for years.

“In everyday life, there is no time to discuss these practices, to exchange knowledge. The Leadership Development Program is supposed to help in this. As the organizers, we ask initial questions and then encourage people to share their perspectives. People learn effectively in this way. We work together in groups to answer what makes a good leader? What is the most difficult thing about being a leader? What are the biggest problems of being a leader? It’s important that the participants find their own answers. The biggest value of training is working on living examples. That is why we encourage people to share their examples.”

Katarzyna Pawłowicz, Junior IT Recruiter at Divante

The Leadership Development Program focuses on social skills and results orientation. The training sessions address issues related to soft skills such as change and time management, feedback with employees, dealing with stress, motivation, and culture of information exchange. There are also some results-oriented topics including e-commerce, scrum, customer relations, and the achievement of OKR goals. 

People share their knowledge with others during training sessions

“If someone in the company specializes in something, we invite them to share their knowledge. We also try to invite people from outside such as a CEO from another company who also advises Divante. It was a training on how to build relationships with a large client and how to prepare for such situations.”

Katarzyna Pawłowicz

There are many leaders in Divante. Apart from managers, there are Tribe Masters, technical leaders, and lead developers. About one-third of Divante’s crew are involved in the training. 

Renata Hara during one of the Leadership Development Program sessions in February 2020

Each of the employees has different expectations of leaders. People taking part in the workshops emphasize that the universal features of a great leader are openness and transparency in communication. A leader should also be a person that people do not hesitate to approach and talk to, especially if something is not going well in the team. Thanks to that the quality of work will be much better for the employee and the leader. Many people also stressed that a good leader supports and motivates others. This is the heart of the Leadership Development Program: it is not only about the leaders themselves.

“We want all our employees’ satisfaction to grow. A leader has a great influence on employees and project implementation, but also on the turnover and interaction with employees. If we take care of leaders, we also take care of employees. In an ideal world, it will have a positive impact on clients, relationships, and the atmosphere within teams. A leader can motivate people.”

Renata Hara
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Published May 5, 2020