The Leadership Development Crisis

Have you ever been required to attend a leadership development workshop sponsored by your company, only to come away wondering why anyone even bothered?

If you answered yes, you are not alone. A 2012 study done by Bersin & Associates found that American companies spend almost US$14 billion annually on leadership development training. Clearly, companies value investing money into educating their talent in solid leadership skills.

The problem isn’t the intent. The problem is most leadership development programs don’t work that well. Many factors contribute to the high failure rate, including:

  • A failure to consider the context of various real-world situations requiring strong leadership skills
  • An abysmal retention rate between what is learned in the program and what needs to be done back at work
  • Not addressing the deeper level thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs of workshop participants so the root causes of why they behave the way they do can be addressed and thus changed
  • Not measuring results

Additionally, many companies are growing so fast these days, they need to promote highly specialized internal candidates into leadership roles to keep them engaged – as they see a career progression and they feel their efforts are being recognized with the promotion. While this approach certainly has its upside, it can also be a disaster if the newly promoted are not properly prepared for the daily demands and responsibilities of their new leadership role. Merely sending them off to a 3-day leadership “bootcamp” isn’t going to cut it as effective leadership requires the new leader to embody a new set of behaviors.

Given today’s highly volatile climate marked by consistent economic fluctuations, re-orgs and subsequent layoffs, 21st century leadership poses a range of challenges. These challenges often arise from three main sources:

  • People and situations (external)
  • Within the leader him or herself (internal)
  • The nature of being a leader in a complex world

As if the VUCA environment wasn’t enough, most challenges organizations face tend to show up during times of change or instability, like when a company is being acquired, or a new software system is being introduced to the entire organization. Other triggers that can derail leaders include when a large project or period of work is beginning or ending, or when a group or organization is in transition.

Some challenges are basic and don’t last that long (with a clear end date in sight). But many seem to have no end date, like maintaining team morale during another round of layoffs, or keeping everyone focused on the company’s long-term mission and vision. These situations can feel a lot like entering a roundabout and getting stuck in a circle with no clear way of getting out.

Takeaway Question: Think about the last professional development seminar you attended. What worked well? What was missing?

Excerpt from Claudio’s book “The Samurai Samba Vinci Way: How to Improve Your Executive Presence, Increase Trust and Lead Your Team at a World-Class Level” available on Amazon.
#leadership #selfawareness #culturaldiversity