Leadership development: the real reason it doesn’t get done

November 11, 2015 by Wally Bock

There’s no shortage of articles about why leadership development programs fail. McKinsey thinks there are four common mistakes. Kotter claims that it’s weak foundations. The analysis seems sound, but they don’t get to the heart of the issue.

Everyone agrees that leadership development is important

No one ever says out loud that leadership development isn’t important. They might behave like it, of course. They might bring in outsiders for just about every important leadership job. They might spend less on leadership development than they do on toilet paper. But you’ll never hear anyone say that leadership development isn’t important.

Leadership development requires leadership

Leadership development takes a lot of work, but people would do the work if top management sent the message that leadership development is important. At organizations known for developing leaders, top management spends a lot of time on it At most companies, though, the words are there but the action is not.

So the next question seems to be: “Why doesn’t the top management of those companies set the example and put in the time to make their leadership development programs work?” There’s one big reason.

Leadership development doesn’t pay off in the present

American business culture suffers from two powerful beliefs that work against creating effective leadership development programs. The first one is that the sole job of top leadership is to increase shareholder value by increasing the stock price. The other one is that leadership effectiveness should be measured on a quarterly basis.

Leadership development isn’t a short term thing. If you think it’s important you’ll put in the time and effort for a future payoff you may not see. But you’ll have to work against the grain of the current business culture.

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

Posted in Leadership Development

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