Cranfield’s High Performance Leadership programme

High Performance Leadership: promoting executive leadership

For almost two decades, Cranfield’s High Performance Leadership programme has revolutionised the way leaders achieve results within their organisations.

It fits neatly in with the values of the Praxis Centre for Personal Leadership Development; all programmes here work differently than their industry contemporaries.

A crucial element of the High Performance Leadership programme is its acknowledgement that the job of a leader is profoundly different to that of a manager or technician – the programme therefore uses a holistic approach that allows individuals to put theory into practice.

Origins of High Performance Leadership

Cranfield’s High Performance Leadership programme The programme has run successfully since the turn of the century, with leaders originally invited on the programme to talk philosophically about their roles; they were asked questions that explored what they didn’t know and how to remedy that.

However, the Praxis Centre’s approach changed when Andy Logan was invited to lead the programme. With the help of highly-regarded colleagues, the now-Programme Director sought to make changes to the leadership programme to promote executive leadershipin all types of industry.

One of the major findings was that it was hard to find an adequate model that fit the needs of leaders in all businesses.

All performance, Andy points out, is context dependent. The challenges faced by a leader in one particular sector will be completely different to those in another.

Because of this, the Programme Director knew that a mode of teaching had to be designed that had a meta pattern, so that it enables people in any context to be able to deal with what is going on as a leader.

Andy explained: “High performance leadership is not based on models that say if you do one thing, another will happen, and when that does, you will be successful.

“It’s based on one thing which is learning to read the context you’re in, above all else.”

When designing the programme, the importance of the transitions required to move into leadership were also explored; Andy and his team worked with ‘technicians’ from a range of sectors – those employees who have the technical knowledge and skills to undertake work.

The recognition of the role of a manager followed this – you may still be a technician from time to time, but you have the additional role of managing; both have relatively identifiable solutions that you can prove are working with repetition, but there is a transition required to manager level.

The definition of leadership was explored – different to both technicians and managers, as Andy explained: “It (leadership) is different, and the core difference we came up with is that they weren’t about applying skills and knowledge that we know already works to a particular task or project.

“Leadership is primarily asking the question of the future, which we don’t know. It’s even more important as a leader that you’re not at managerial or technical level.”

It means that the teachings of the High Performance Leadership programme are underpinned by the fact that leadership requires a completely different skill set to managers and technicians – the former’s purpose is to prepare the latter two in a way that enables a company to ultimately succeed.

When exploring what the programme should be, another important finding identified how differently leaders are judged in terms of achieving success.

Technicians and managers are primarily judged on what Andy called ‘programmable work’.

For leaders, they are judged on ‘non-programmable work’, whereby the answers for any given task are not immediately obvious.

Andy said: “The very process of being a leader is to have most of your time, effort and significance attached to non-programmable situations. You don’t know what is going to work and what the answer might be.”

Technicians and managers are scored on what they know and they know what the answer to tasks look like – moving into leadership is “profoundly different,” because a leader’s behaviour isn’t being scored – it is that of the technicians and managers who are being led.

Cranfield’s High Performance Leadership programme seeks to help professionals on this journey to look differently at how they are leading technicians and managers.

It is an intensive process, but one that challenges conventional methods.

What does the programme offer?

Cranfield’s High Performance Leadership programmeThe three-stage programme challenges its cohorts to face the way they currently work, breaking down any barriers to successful leadership, ensuring discovery of the best way to influence others.

The High Performance Leadership programme at the Praxis Centre lasts for four months and includes three modules throughout the “initiation journey.”

Andy Logan has designed the programme so that it puts those leaders in attendance in a context where they are “free not to know,” and are given space in which they are free to explore, experiment and be challenged.

The first module is a five-day residential stagethat helps cohorts build on existing strengths and uncover a unique leadership core.

It is intensive and encourages people to look deeply at themselves and their existing methods; leaders are given time and space to explore what it is they have to face in themselves, the situations at work that hold them back, that they need to find a way past to become a leader.

Andy describes the first “experiential” module as “the hero’s journey.” The course goes through a deep and profound self-examination process throughout the week, where attendees come face-to-face with whatever it is holding them back.

Through the support of tutors, the programme takes its attendees through a process of self-confrontation of their issue, which leads to solutions regarding what people need to do differently at work.

It really is a deeper way of looking at leadership and executive development; throughout the first module, the course succeeds in helping leaders look differently at their work processes.

Andy explains: “On that journey somewhere, they are going to come across a bit where they can’t get any further doing what they have done. That’s when they have to look backwards as to why they get stuck there.”

When this is discovered, cohorts have to explore solutions to these problems and how they will be enacted back in the working environment.

This leads to module 2: the leadership journey, involving eight weeks back in work to apply these lessons in a practical environment.

But Cranfield’s High Performance Leadership programme ensures professionals are assisted on every step of the way by setting goals that will help to embed new leadership practices.

The first module equips those on the course with practices and models for looking at the world and themselves in a different way, ready for re-integration into work.

In those following eight weeks, Cranfield set up phone calls and webinars, ensuring one-to-one and group sessions to monitor how the lessons learned on the hero’s journey are being applied.

Finally, module 3 takes place: Galvanise leadership growth – stepping forward.

This is a three-day residential module which celebrates the success of the preceding eight weeks and refines leadership challenges.

Andy Logan says that these three days look at the organisational context and give cohorts “practises to rewire the brain, as it were, to be able to perceive and act with complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty and volatility.”

It helps leaders to remain confident on what they know and what they can predict what will happen in their own working environments.

Andy explains: “From the healing process, we go to a resilience process and a mindset-changing process. How to look at the world differently, and what practises have I got that keep me resilient and able to withstand the inner and outer pressure of managing in uncertainty.”

Cranfield are intent on ensuring that the people who attend each of their courses and programmes do so because it is suitable for their needs; the team vet applications and if it is deemed they aren’t suitable for the High Performance Leadership programme, they are directed to the programme that will benefit them the most.

But for those who are in leadership positions, senior executives, directors and heads of functions that would like to inspire and motivate their teams, this is the perfect programme.

The success of the tutor-intensive programme is apparent by the fact that people who have been on the course have recommended it to others within their organisation.

Described as “profound and deep” by those who have been through the course, the High Performance Leadership programme has changed the way that leaders think and look at themselves and the world around them, helping their leadership skills to evolve with each promotion.

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