There are many voices around the world that claim it is. What do you think? Is leadership development failing? If you answer yes, then leadership training is probably failing for you. If you answer no, then leadership training is probably not failing for you.
Although that may seem overly simple, the effectiveness of leadership training is very much dependent on your perception of what it should be. So, to start, let’s look at what leadership training should be. For that, the term leadership development more clearly identifies the desired result. What is that desired result? Just what is it we want to develop?
What and who are we talking about?
There are many definitions of leadership, but there is no need to make this difficult. At its most basic level
Who are the leaders who need development?
Leadership can be divided into three categories and leadership development should focus on each category separately.
• Production – level leaders – These are positions like first line supervisors, line chiefs, and shift supervisors. They need to know basic leadership skills. They need to understand how to work with people and get the best from their teams.
• Mid – level leaders – This is the tier often called mid-level management. They too need basic leadership skills but mid-level leaders have the additional challenge of leading production-level leaders, so they need to know about leading and developing other leaders. They also should understand planning and the ability to translate executive direction into action.
• Senior or executive level leaders – Guess what? These folks also need to know those basic leadership skills. However, the majority of their work involves skills more closely associated with management tasks such as programming and controlling.
Therefore, leadership development should help leaders develop the skills to be effective at their level of leadership.
These categories might not be clearly defined in a small company where the owner might be filling two or three of these levels. If you are in that position, it would be best to invest the time in at least learning basic leadership skills and techniques.
Why would leadership development fail?
To say all leadership development efforts are a failure is way too broad a statement. It’s difficult to measure success; there is no specific line item on any report marked “Leadership,” but there are some indicators. Less conflict, reduced turnover, more productivity, more innovation, better communication, great team cohesiveness, and trust are all indicators that leadership development is working.
So, if you have invested in leadership development and you aren’t seeing those results you rightly should ask why.
Here are some possible reasons.
1. Leadership development provided by people who haven’t been leaders. There is plenty of reading material available about leadership and there are lots of people who are ready to tell you all about how to be a good leader. Leadership is part art and part science. Although studying or observing leadership is valuable, to truly understand it requires doing. So leadership development should be provided by those who have actual experience.
2. That’s not to say reading and observing are not good practices. They are. But effective leadership development programs go beyond simply spouting theory. They also emphasize how to apply what the skills and techniques you read about and observe to the individual leader’s situation. If your leadership development program is just throwing a bunch of clever quotes and sayings at your supervisors and hoping they stick, you’re wasting your time.
3. You haven’t selected the right people to be leaders. It’s a fact that most people have the ability to be good leaders, but only when they have the desire to learn and apply good leadership skills. Not everyone wants to take on the mantel of leadership and forcing them into that position will have bad results.
4. You aren’t letting it work. The best leadership development in the world won’t work if a developing leader is not allowed to implement what they’ve learned. Are you putting up roadblocks? Unwillingness to allow leaders to implement new skills and techniques is a sure way to cause failure.
How do we make sure leadership development doesn’t fail?
Leadership development success largely depends on the approach. Just like you would not throw someone into a specialized position without helping them develop the necessary skills, you should not expect a new supervisor or manager to just jump in with no additional training. Some basic steps will help you make leadership development a success.
1. Take leadership development seriously. Good leadership requires a different skill and should be an integral part of your HR program.
2. Develop a leadership development program that will address each level’s needs.
3. Follow-up. Keep track of what your new leaders are learning. Let them know you are interested in how they can apply their new skills with their team.
Leadership development is critical for your company’s supervisors and managers. The success of the program is in your hands.
Want an effective leadership development program? Contact Bob to discuss how we can help you.
Or, take a look at some of our courses available through FindCourses.