Leadership development and insanity

June 14, 2017 by Wally Bock

Leadership development starts with selecting developing leaders. Thuy and Milo Sindell make that point in their article for Entrepreneur titled, “4 Ways to Develop the Leaders You’ll Need in the Future” where they say:

“One of the most challenging aspects of leadership development is consistently and effectively identifying the next wave of leaders.”

Leadership development often fails at the point of selection.

I don’t know why we haven’t fixed this. For decades, we’re known that leadership is a particular kind of work. As with any kind of work, some people have the aptitudes and aspirations to become good at it and other people don’t. We say we know that, but we don’t act that way.

Instead we do the equivalent of choosing great auto mechanics to develop into great cooks. Sometimes that works fine, but most of the time it doesn’t. Then we make things worse.

Leadership development failures after selection

After we’ve put individual contributors in leadership positions, those new leaders are left to navigate one of the toughest transitions in all of life and business on their own. When the new leaders need lots of close support, coaching, and encouragement, we send them off to a two-week leadership course and pronounce them competent when they complete it. But we’re not done yet.

We’ve made a change to leadership into a promotion. So, if a new “leader” discovers that he or she doesn’t like the work it’s really, really, really hard for them to go back to being an individual contributor.

But wait, there’s more. Too many companies allow “leaders” who hate the work and don’t perform well to stay on for decades. In the process, they screw up team after team and give talented people a reason to leave the company.

Leadership development and insanity

They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s what we’re doing. We know better. So, why don’t we change things?

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

Posted in Leadership Development

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