Leadership Development is Broken

Leadership Development is Broken

Sometimes we like to use big words or maybe the latest buzzwords. Maybe it makes us feel smart, or even superior. We use these words even if we are not completely sure what they mean. We are, perhaps like Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass where he asserts the right to use words in any way he chooses so long as he pays them appropriately at the end of the week.

How we Define Leadership Development

One term we hear a lot is “leadership development.” It seems to be used as a catch-all for anything that arguably falls into some very broad and deep leadership bucket without any structure or attempt at cause and effect development.

When researching Sustained Leadership WBS it became painfully obvious that our use of many leadership terms and the word “leadership” itself had been so misused that their meanings were being lost.

Both Leadership Development and Leadership Selection are Broken

Jeffrey Pfeffer noted in Leadership BS that his research and experience forced him to conclude that both leadership development and leadership selection were badly broken. How else to explain how we so often managed to put non-leaders into leadership positions?

Leadership Competencies are Changing

Many factors contribute to this dynamic. There is strong evidence that the needs of leadership are changing in significant ways. In terms of Sustained Leadership, the need for specialized competencies is expanding. If the goal is to prepare people to fill leadership positions within organizations, the demands are as varied as those organizations. Why, then, do we consistently place people in leadership positions 12 to 14 years BEFORE they receive their first leadership development?

On-The-Job Mistakes

On-the-job training certainly has value, but if we learn best by learning from our mistakes, can any of us live long enough to make every mistake? Can any organization survive by affording each developing leader to learn only by making constant mistakes? Seems there needs to be a stronger effort at developing leaders and developing them in ways that are meaningful to the individual and the organization together. We have been at this for as long as society has existed. You might think we would be better at it by now.

A better understanding of leadership development, as compared to the needs of the organization, should begin much earlier in the career process. It should begin much sooner in life. A better understanding of leadership itself, and thereby the needs at which leadership development should be directed, ought to be receiving more attention than they currently do.

Join the Discussion

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing some of the many issues surrounding this topic. Please join the conversation.

This material is derived from the book Sustained Leadership WBS. Buy Sustained Leadership WBS here.

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Tom Reid is a lawyer, author, mentor, speaker, and all around good guy to know. He has lived all over the country due to his career as a government contracting lawyer and now lives wherever the notion strikes him. Find him on Twitter @_TomGReid

With an extensive career in government contracting, Tom has found many examples, both good and bad, of leadership. These posts are based on his latest book, Sustained Leadership WBS, published by Morgan James. Tom is available to speak to your team on the importance of developing sustained leaders.


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