Lots of Leadership Training, But Where Are the Leaders?

I started the day in the office of an executive who told me that he felt that the six hours we were getting ready to spend together in a workshop was probably going to be a waste of time, but he was doing it because it was required. I was on the phone with a friend earlier this week who works in the leadership development business, and she told me that she has seen a huge uptick in calls from the federal government and corporations this past year who are looking for coaches, not trainers. Those were the stories on my mind as I read Michael Hyatt’s article this week in Forbes.

There is no doubt that corporations have spent millions on leadership development training, and some question whether it has yielded actionable and tangible results, both for the leader and the companies. Some argue that leadership can’t be taught. I disagree. Others argue that they don’t see leaders change much after the workshops and conferences. I do believe that some training programs yield great benefit that may not be visible in the short term, but I too am noticing that more of my clients are moving away from larger conference and hotel training spaces to operation by operation, location by location, dealership by dealership, training and facilitation. That may be because we are realizing that leaders need developing, not just more training, if they are going to incorporate new leadership skills into their practices and management styles.

I nearly am a daily witness to the fact that managers and those with leadership titles can move the needle over time, and that everyone can learn to take on the attitudes, behaviors and best practices of great leaders … over time. But that takes a long-term plan and a focus on development, not just training for the current role or for bandaids on deeper issues.

Michael adeptly and succinctly points out the difference between training and development of leaders. I do believe his stereotypes of training are overstated … I haven’t done one training in 10 years that is a monologue or lecture … but the point is well taken if we did not take these comparisons too literally. What we need is a comprehensive approach to training leaders that is tailored to the needs of each leader and context, not a one size fits all approach attached to either side of the training / development pendulum.

Michael distinguishes training and development this way:

1. Training blends to a norm – Development occurs beyond the norm.

2. Training focuses on technique/content/curriculum – Development focuses on people.

3. Training tests patience – Development tests courage.

4. Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.

5. Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.

6. Training is transactional – Development is transformational.

7. Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.

8. Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.

9. Training indoctrinates – Development educates.

10. Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.

11. Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.

12. Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.

13. Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.

14. Training focuses on problems  – Development focuses on solutions.

15. Training focuses on reporting lines – Development expands influence.

16. Training places people in a box – Development frees them from the box.

17. Training is mechanical – Development is intellectual.

18. Training focuses on the knowns – Development explores the unknowns.

19. Training places people in a comfort zone – Development moves people beyond their comfort zones.

20. Training is finite – Development is infinite.

I haven’t decided if I agree entirely with Michael, at least in the extremes, but I do think he’s on to something. What about you?

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