2013 – August – Leadership Training? Don’t Believe the Hype

What does it take to make a great leader?Some experts say it takes training, but I question whether is training a leader is even possible. That’s because training implies repetitive action until a successful sequence is completed. However, as a coach I have noticed something very different.

It isn’t success that develops a leader, but the experience of failure.

Don’t just take just my word for it. Mike Myattis is a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and boards, the author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual,” and is widely regarded as America’s top CEO coach.

In his Forbes Magazine article, “The #1 Reason Leader Development Fails,” Myatt points out that $170 billion is spent annually in the USA on leadership training. Yet training leads to robotic, static thinkers. Developing innovative and critical thinkers requires a different approach.

Leaders and talent managers also recognize that leadership training isn’t effective.

Rich Wellins is the senior vice president of DDI, a talent management with offices around the world. He says that 25% of organizations report that they have losses directly related to failure in leadership, and that 60% of organizations experience turnover because of poor leadership.

The main reason (56%) leaders fail is because they lack interpersonal skills, not because they can’t execute (15%) or make decisions (17%). 

Lack of strategic skills is the next highest cause at 33% followed by other soft skills such as too much conflict avoidance (24%) and lack of trust building (21%).

Clearly we need to develop soft and interpersonal skills in our leaders. 

What does that mean, practically speaking? Myatt suggests coaching and mentoring.

How do coaching, mentoring and result in better soft skills?

Leaders will experience personal growth, and they will:

  • Gain insight on their behaviors and how they affects others
  • Have a better understanding of their values, leading to better decision making
  • Experience deep and powerful listening
  • Allow themselves to think in  new ways
  • Challenge themselves by digging deeper than they ever have before.

Yes, this sounds painful. Some would say, “fluffy.” However, the skills and training that brought you into a leadership position won’t serve you going forward.  Indeed, coaching and mentoring may be essential to developing leadership.

As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

To become a great leader will require a significant shift away from what has worked for you so far. Making this shift can seem impossible. And it is impossible without personal transformation.

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