“What does good leadership look like?”
If you were to pose that question to ten people, you would receive ten different answers with some common themes. Each answer would draw heavily from the individual’s personal experiences. One person might describe the leadership of their high school coach, another the style of their favorite college professor, and another still might speak of an executive they work or worked for. This slight variation on a common theme suggests that great leadership is not rocket science; everyone recognizes it when they see it -- and experience it.
In a large organization, this situation is multiplied many times over. Everyone comes in with their own perspectives of what constitutes good leadership. This informs how each manager leads and mentors their direct reports. Having many disparate, yet similar, definitions of good leadership has consequences. In particular, a lack of consistency can make it exceedingly difficult for an employee to grow. Their current manager’s idea of an effective employee and an adept leader may be different than their prior manager’s opinion. This introduces uncertainty and frustration for an employee seeking to develop strong professional skills, because the goal posts against which they are being measured are constantly changing.
To avoid this, at Shield AI we have developed a comprehensive Talent Development Model. Our model seeks to define what it means to be a good leader and an exceptional employee. It allows the entire company to align on one objective set of definitions and criteria, and to intentionally and thoughtfully strategize how to effectively develop our team in order to achieve our mission at scale.
In our view, to develop top talent, we need to define what we mean by top talent. We can then rely upon this single definition to identify great talent early, develop them and reward proven results.
Our model defines three core elements of effective talent: inspirational leadership, technical expertise, and skilled management.
Inspiring leaders set and elevate the standard of behavior; they uphold company values, inspire others to achieve the highest performance, invest in developing their teammates, and foster an inclusive and collaborative work environment.
Technical expertise is table-stakes for employees at Shield AI. It is what drives our ability to lead the cutting edge of technology. Employees with the highest levels of technical expertise solve problems with speed and rigor, and create great products for our customers.
Skilled managers get the job done, on time and on target; they develop clear strategies, communicate effectively and execute with excellence.
In our view, exceptional employees must demonstrate all of these characteristics. So, we have further built out our Talent Development Model to include twelve attributes that each employee can focus on to further develop their leadership, expertise, and management. These attributes establish a development trajectory that each member of our team can reference to understand the level of mastery expected in order to be eligible for advancement to the next level. These trajectories are meant to be a guide to help our team members understand expectations and to plan their growth.
We have invested a lot of time in developing this model so that we, as an organization, can align on a relatively simple system that everyone on the team understands. We believe strongly that models such as these allow us, and companies like us, to provide better professional development to our employees by taking the guess work out of the discussion about career growth. Employees of all levels across all functions understand what is expected of them and those around them. We hope that simple, objective and transparent systems such as these help us to achieve our core talent goal: to attract and retain the best in order to achieve our mission at scale.