Leadership Development without the Straight Lines

October 11, 2011 by Wally Bock

You won’t find a straight line in nature. In fact, the only place you find straight lines is in artificial things, like books and theories on leadership development. We’ve got to change that.

Check the leadership development program at your place. Does it assume that people decide on a straight-line career ladder and then climb until they reach their potential? Does it assume that once someone stops climbing, that’s it?

Those assumptions were probably always wrong, but now they’re not just wrong, they’re counterproductive. We need every willing brain in the game. We need all the talent we can find. That’s why we need to change the way we think about leadership development so that we deal more effectively with some common situations. Here are just three of them.

We need more options for a person who takes time off to raise a family. People don’t get dumber when they do that. In fact, they learn things it’s almost impossible to teach.

We need to recognize that sometimes people choose leadership roles later in life. And many people who get moved into leadership roles early in life aren’t ready then, but will be when they have a few miles on them.

We need to find ways for people to learn more and learn more about themselves by trying things out. Most of us are good at learning things from our experience. It’s not a straight line, but it works. Most times, “try it out” beats “train it in.”

For as long as there’s been management, the common practice has been to make the person accommodate him or herself to the job and the company. For as long as there have been leadership development programs they’ve expected a straight line climb with no allowances for time off the ladder.

Leadership development in today’s world will be more effective if we get rid of the straight lines and do things nature’s way.

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

Posted in Leadership Development

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