Navigating the gap in leadership training

As an Assistant, you play a crucial role in supporting your Executive and ensuring the smooth functioning of your organisation. You are often the bridge between the staff and the Executive, and you have a unique perspective on their leadership style and capabilities. 

In a recent interview with Bonnie Low-Kramen, Author of Staff Matters, we discussed how many Executives need more formal leadership training when they start their roles, and this lack of training can significantly impact their ability to manage their teams effectively. In this article, we will explore the relationship between an Assistant and their Executive and the importance of recognising the gap in leadership training. Furthermore, we will look at how Assistants can navigate and build relationships with an Executive without leadership or management training.

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It’s common for Assistants to witness Executives struggling with their leadership responsibilities. You may have experienced situations where your Executive needs help managing their team or handling difficult situations. This lack of training can result in ineffective leadership behaviours, such as poor communication, lack of empathy, or difficulty in managing diverse teams. While you may have been aware of this issue, it may only have fully sunk in once you read an article or heard a presentation that put the numbers in perspective.

For example, in her book, Bonnie cites a Harvard Business Review article by Jack Venga. It was revealed that the average age at which leaders receive their first training in managing people was 42 in 2012, and it increased to 46 in 2021 based on a poll of 70,000 leaders worldwide. This means that most leaders are out of school for more than 20 years before receiving formal training in managing people. This lack of training can result in leaders struggling to understand and effectively manage their teams, leading to challenges and frustrations for leaders and their staff.

As an Assistant, you may have experienced firsthand the consequences of this leadership training gap.

You may have seen your Executive struggling to communicate, manage conflicts, or adapt to changing work environments, such as hybrid or remote work. You may have also noticed differences in how your Executive manages different team members, such as introverts versus extroverts or men versus women. This lack of training in emotional intelligence and understanding diverse work dynamics can impact the team’s morale, productivity, and overall performance.

However, this gap in leadership training also presents an opportunity for Assistants to step up and manage their Executives. You can take on a proactive role in supporting your Executive by coming to meetings with a plan, actively partnering with your Executive, and being knowledgeable about their inbox and what’s happening in the organisation. By taking on this proactive approach, you can fill the gap in leadership training and support your Executive in becoming a more effective leader. Here are a few steps Assistants can take when navigating the gap in leadership training.

Recognise the need for improvement

The first step in being a successful Assistant is recognising the need for improvement. Many Executives struggle with leadership and management responsibilities, which can cause a lack of direction and unnecessary stress for employees. As an Assistant, you are uniquely positioned to recognise gaps in your Executive’s skills and abilities. Once you have identified these gaps, you can offer support and guidance to assist your Executive in enhancing their leadership skills.

Be proactive in supporting Your Executive

As an Assistant, you need to take a proactive approach to support your Executive. This involves taking on additional responsibilities and being willing to work collaboratively with your Executive. For example, you can research and recommend leadership training courses or organise team-building activities to improve team morale. By demonstrating a willingness to support your Executive, you can build a strong working relationship and help fill the gap in leadership training.

Communicate effectively

Effective communication is critical in any relationship; the Assistant-Executive relationship is no exception. Establishing a solid communication channel that allows for constructive feedback and transparency is essential. By having open and honest conversations, you can identify potential issues and find practical solutions to any problems that may arise. It would help if you communicated clearly regarding tasks and responsibilities to avoid misunderstandings and ensure tasks are completed on time.

Act as the bridge between staff and your Executive

As an Assistant, you are often the first point of contact for employees and understand their concerns and issues well. You can use this knowledge to help your Executive make informed decisions that benefit the employees and the organisation. Being a bridge between the staff and the Executive requires good communication skills and maintaining confidentiality.

Embrace the challenge

Being an Assistant is a challenging but highly rewarding role. Embrace the challenge and recognise the positive impact you can have on your organisation. You can contribute to a more productive and successful work environment by taking a proactive approach and actively supporting your Executive. Celebrate your successes and use your experiences to grow and develop your skills as an Assistant.

The relationship between an Assistant and their Executive is critical in supporting the smooth functioning of an organisation. The gap in leadership training for Executives is a well-known issue, and as an Assistant, you can manage and help fill this gap. By taking on a proactive approach, recognising the need for improvement, and actively supporting your Executives in their leadership responsibilities, you can contribute to a more productive and successful work environment. So, embrace the opportunity to be the bridge between the staff and the Executive and make a positive impact in your organisation.