Leadership development: The Boring Parts

June 20, 2018 by Wally Bock

Leadership development is not the same as writing a novel. Super-author Stephen King advises novel writers to “leave out the boring parts.” That’s the opposite of what you want if you want to develop leaders.

Those thoughts fired off in my brain while I was reading Jack Zenger’s great article, “How Some Companies Are Aiming High in Leadership Development” in Forbes. Jack urges companies to aim higher. He asks and answers an important question:

“Why don’t more senior executives set these kinds of expectation for their leadership development team? It may be that it doesn’t occur to them and they don’t realize that is possible. They may not think their current leadership development staff could pull off such a dramatic change.”

Jack is one of the great thinkers in leadership development, but I think he’s wrong about this. I think that too many leaders see developing leaders as lots of hard, boring work with the payoff way out in the future.

Leadership development without the boring parts.

Leadership development without the boring parts is fun for senior executives. They can delegate the boring parts to HR and just do the exciting parts. They can make grand pronouncements and passionate exhortations. They can blame “lack of leadership” on the youngest generation in the workplace. It’s fun and there’s absolutely no real accountability.

Leadership development with the boring parts

Leader development that actually develops leaders requires lots of work. There should be a cadence of meetings that occur throughout the year. Aspiring leaders must be evaluated frequently. Legendary senior leaders including Alfred Sloan and Jack Welch suggest that those boring parts will take half of a senior leader’s time. But no one will be watching and applauding.

You can have it either way. You can have a development program that feels good, but doesn’t require much hard, boring work. Or, you can have an effective leadership development program, one with the hard work and boring parts left in.

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

Posted in Leadership Development

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