Growing Leaders

04/01/2015 12:07 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2015

We need extraordinary leaders today more than ever. We need them to help us deal with the ambiguity and volatility of the business environment and to love every minute of it.

Those leaders need to be confident in getting 'lost' and trying new things out. They must be human and sensitive yet have the belief to drive themselves and those they're leading beyond the average.

So how can we grow them and what role does Leadership Development play in shaping these futures heroes and heroines?

Leaders grow by stretching themselves. They have to create real experiences that help them flex and experiment and then deliver meaningful learning.

All too often they are invested in intellectually but not viscerally and that builds lopsided leaders.

A good friend of mine, Mark Hix runs some great restaurants. Last summer he invited me to a Challenge Hix morning. It is a simple idea where he cooks 3 - 4 dishes against each one of his head chefs in 20 minutes and then these new dishes if they are successful find their way onto the menus. It's a way of keeping everything fresh and constantly evolving.

The ingredients they use are different every time and the rule is that you aren't allowed to use a recipe that you have used before.

I love my food but for me the highlight of the session is the Leadership Development side of it. Mark is really putting himself out there. He is role-modelling the behaviours he wants from his chefs, and in doing so he is exposing his own creativity. Not every dish can work and therefore they all get really good at learning from their experiments and getting better every time.

No one is expected to be perfect. They only expectation is that they will have a good crack at it and keep pushing themselves.

Many leaders play it safe. They get to a position where they are successful and then stop stretching themselves. Mark does quite the opposite. Every 2 weeks he rolls up his sleeves and very visibly takes risks.

Towards the end of 2014 YouGov conducted an online survey for us amongst 2082 UK adults, 1282 of which were working full or part time. Results showed that people working for Creative Leaders, which was about 31% of the total, are happier, more engaged, more creative and more loyal.

72% of those people claim to love their jobs vs only 27% of those working with 'safe players' and 70% think that their workplace is great for having ideas versus only 10% of those working for safe players. The Hix Challenge really is this 70% in action.

If you want to grow as a leader, my question would be what would your version of Challenge Hix be? What can you do that helps you learn and grow and hone your craft?

We all need stretching experiences; what will yours be?