Why Leadership-Development Efforts Fail

25 02 2010

Some thinkleadership has become the hottest topic in business.”  As it has become a hot topic, there have come unsuccessful ways of implementing leadership development, which this article refers to as ‘pathologies.’

Pathology“the causes and effects of systematic problems in the way organizations attempt to develop leadership capability.”

  • 3 Pathologies in Leadership Development:

Outdated thinking about ownership, a product-focused quick-fixes mentality, and make-believe metrics that measure activity rather than capability” are leadership development efforts that will fail you.

1) The “Ownership Is Power” Mind-Set

-This mind-set can focus on control (–withholding information), ownership (–nonparticipation) and power-oriented thinking.

-You can give individuals “opportunities for development through challenging assignments” …and if they take “responsibility” for those assignments… you need to “seek feedback” and give “realistic assessments” as a follow-up to those assignments.  This is good accountability.

If you're going to be a power munger and authoritarian, don't expect anyone to enjoy working under you. Instead, share ownership (don't hoard it).

2) The Productization of Leadership Development

-Sometimes leaders can focus on products versus solving problems.  Products can be a short-term fix but solving problems helps the long-term strategic goals.

-Leadership training programs cycle in and out companies and do not link the leadership “ideas to the context of the business.” –They’re like a “series of disconnected programs sold by consultants to training managers who don’t understand our business” one person was quoted as saying.

-Leadership development does not take place in one-day, paint-by-the-numbers, ‘edutainment’ sessions.

3) Make-Believe Metrics (‘Metrics’ are like keeping a scorecard)

-The belief that leadership development can be measured by “quantifiable activities” really avoids the greater, needed questions and purposes of leadership development, which aren’t necessary shown in number changes that reflect growth.

-Avoided questions that leadership development should be geared towards:  “Are we better able to fill key jobs when they arise?  To what extent are our leadership programs building managers’ commitment to our strategic direction?”

-You know your leadership development is failing “if employees perceive that they are wasting their time attending programs that do not build competitive capability or create the next generation of talent.”

  • Treating Pathologies in Leadership Development:

1) Share Ownership and Demand Accountability … Don’t look at management as your opportunity to show your power and authority but rather an opportunity to motivate people and build collective intuition.

2) Invest in Processes, Not Products … “Executives learn leadership much more effectively from experiences than from educational courses.”

3) Measure What Matters … Leadership development should be “building the capabilities that will produce superior business results.”  That includes more than just analyzing activities and seeing number growth.




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