Leadership Training and You… The Sobering Truth
OK… maybe that title is a bit dramatic. And…
Leadership development programs don’t work as expected. They will have some small impact on most participants, and no impact on a few. However they will only have the desired impact on one or two participants. Why?
Because Leadership is not a skill…
Many of the actions that Leaders take could be seen as skills. We can teach people how to go through the motions of almost any skill. We can teach people what actions people who have certain Leadership qualities take… what actions describe that quality. However, since Leadership is not simply a compilation of skills, or simply a list of actions, we cannot teach Leadership.
Leadership is not a science…
Leadership is not facts, figures, or formulas. We can tell people how a Leader might act when faced with a particular situation. However, since Leadership involves other people who are all unique, there is no one right way to deal with any situation. Remembering what to do, or how to act does not make great Leaders.
We have to want to take the actions that describe Leadership…
Simply knowing what actions to take does not mean we will take those actions. Almost all of us know how to pray, and yet how many of us pray on a regular basis? It takes a high level of faith, or belief to keep us praying daily throughout our lives.
It’s the same with Leadership…
We can teach people what generous people do, and that does not make people generous. Only those who have a strong belief that giving is fuel for contentment; who feel good when they give things away; who feel good when helping others; and who see the world as abundant, with plenty to go around will actually be generous.
We can teach people what people who listen to understand do, and that does not make them good listeners. Only people who believe that listening to others is important; who care about others enough to be interested not only in what they say, but how they feel; who believe that the thoughts and feelings of other’s are important; and who really care about helping others will actually listen to hear both what others are saying, and how they feel about what they are saying.
We can teach people why good communication skills are important, as well as how good communicators act, however this will not create good communicators. Only those who believe in building strong relationships; who understand why ‘no one took them the wrong way’; who believe that they are responsible for how they come across; who are not constantly judging others; and who genuinely care about others will communicate in a way that will allow others to fully understand.
These are just three simple examples of why Leadership cannot be taught… because
Leadership is really a way of seeing ourselves, the world, and how we fit into that world.
This view only changes for each of us through mistakes, personal growth, maturity, and emotional development. We cannot force these types of changes on others, no matter how much any of us wants it to happen. Leadership is only developed as we learn life lessons about ourselves. We can only foster a culture, an atmosphere, where people feel safe, trusted, and valued among other things. This way those people can make mistakes, confide in us, trust us, and believe that we are here to help them develop these qualities, and support them through this process.
We only learn life lessons when we are ready to learn them…
We will only learn about qualities when we are ready to learn… that is, when we have reached the appropriate level of maturity, and emotional development. Any adult who ever attempted to teach a child about self-awareness, self-responsibility, or empathy knows that this is true. Until we reach a certain point in our development, have made enough mistakes, and are then open to hearing about them, lessons about qualities simply make no sense to us. The people we are trying to teach are not stupid, or incapable of learning… they are just not yet ready to learn what we are attempting to teach, and cannot understand it.
Your time, money, and energy are much better spent truly supporting Leadership and Leadership development in your workplace.
- If you really want to support Leadership and develop Leaders:
- Be the best example of great Leadership for everyone around you.
- Encourage and support mistakes… if you are not making mistakes you are not trying hard enough
- Allow your Leaders the time it takes to build strong, trusting relationships with their team members.
- Encourage and support disagreement, and opposing opinions… we only learn from people who disagree with us.
- Create a Leadership library, start a Leadership book club, and get involved in the discussion.
- Foster transparency… there should be no secrets… everyone should know and understand everything.
- Hire only the best, never settling…
- Hire only for Leadership qualities first and foremost.
- Include insurance that covers mental health.
- Work honestly with poor performers… can they be great in another role? If not, move them off the team.
- Align your rewards systems with Leadership and the development of others. This is the only real way you will see this continue.
People can be taught to do something once, maybe twice… to have the behavior continue after that, that they must believe in it. They must want to do it because it’s the right thing to do… the only way to be. This cannot be taught.
I have, for your reading pleasure, links below for articles I’ve written about the subjects above. Thank you for your time and attention!
My thoughts on what Leadership is and is not.
My 16 part series on hiring for qualities rather than skills starts here.
My recent article on job descriptions and mediocrity.