Leadership development: the biggest training challenge

April 4, 2018 by Wally Bock

Leadership development has lots of moving parts and leaders can fail on many dimensions. But my experience tells me that there’s one set of skills that’s the most critical. I thought of it when I read Scott Gregory’s HBR article titled “The Most Common Type of Incompetent Leader.” Here’s the part of the the opening paragraph that caught my eye.

“My friend was giving it his all, but he needed more support and better feedback than he received. He wanted a leader who would be around when he needed them, and who would give him substantive advice, not platitudes. As a measure of his frustration, he said, ‘I would rather have had a boss who yelled at me or made unrealistic demands than this one, who provided empty praise.'”

Leadership development and the most important skill cluster

Talking to team members about performance and behavior is the key to successful leadership at all levels. If you can’t or won’t do it, you can’t help the team or individual team members succeed. You can’t build trust, either. And, just to make it harder, some people simply won’t talk to others about changing behavior.

Leadership development and the selection challenge

We can teach people techniques for talking to others about performance and behavior. Alas, we can’t teach them to be willing to do it. The only way to select people who are willing to confront others about performance issues is to observe them. If they do it when they’re individual contributors or in temporary leadership positions, great. If not, leadership is not for them.

Leadership development and the training challenge

The other issue with training leaders to become more effective at talking to others about performance or behavior is that it’s almost impossible to teach in the classroom alone. No classroom simulation can truly mimic the real thing. We can teach process in the classroom, but real learning will happen later. Coaching and self-evaluation are essential.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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