I know I’m not going to make any friends within the leadership training community with this statement, but here it is…
There’s no such thing as leadership “training”.
Leaders can’t be trained. Leadership competencies are developed over time. Let me elaborate.
Over the years, I’ve given lots of thought to why leadership makes a difference. And although developing good strategies and making smart decisions are important, they don’t make someone a good leader. We all know smart executives who are poor leaders.
Good leadership is about people skills, not technical knowledge or processes. Good leaders bring out the best in people. When a leader becomes good at bringing out the best in people, engagement increases, productivity improves, turnover drops, and the organization gets better results.
Another reason leadership training is ineffective is that we all have blind spots. In my 20+ years as an executive coach, I have never met an executive who thought they were a poor leader! The reason, of course, is that we all have blind spots and can’t see what we’re missing. If we can’t see our weaknesses, we don’t know they need to be addressed and/or improved. Therefore, most people will dismiss much of what’s being offered in leadership training as being irrelevant. They don’t see how they’re being ineffective, so they don’t see the need to change. (Or they think they are already great leaders …)
Additionally, what a leader thinks of his or her abilities is fairly irrelevant. What matters much more is what others think of them as a leader. It’s the main reason we generally start a coaching engagement with a 360° assessment. It’s important to get an objective picture of how a leader is viewed throughout the organization.
And finally, developing effective leadership competencies takes practice. That’s why the process is developmental. Coaching conversations occur over a period of months and addresses real-world situations and the underlying issues. After that, it’s a process of implementation and refinement.
Specifically, in order to be effective, leaders need to learn how to earn people’s trust, earn people’s respect, treat people like people, treat adults like adults, show appreciation, and effectively develop people
In my experience, many leaders think they do all of that, but in fact, don’t do them very well.
In summary, providing training is good for people who are new leaders. It helps them become aware of the principles of effective leadership. But after they’ve been in a leadership role for a while, training becomes ineffective. Instead, they need someone to point out their blind spots and help them improve. It’s why executive coaching is so widely used.