Leaders are Not Trained; Not Developed; Leaders are “Made Ready”

Leaders are Trained; Developed; Leaders are “Made Ready”

A friend sent me this article from Forbes: The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails by Mike Myatt.  Here are a couple of important and provocative sentences.

You don’t train leaders you develop them – a subtle yet important distinction lost on many…
The terms training and development have somehow become synonymous when they are clearly not. This is more than an argument based on semantics – it’s painfully real.

I’m inclined to agree.  Training is something that is “accomplished.”  “This is how to use excel.”  Either a person knows how to do this, or not.  And a person who does not know how can be trained to use excel.  Sure, that person can always get better, and faster…  but it is a “trainable” skill.

Leadership is a little tougher.  And every day, we read of new examples of failed leadership — in city governments, in state and federal governments, in school districts, in companies and organizations, in the private and public sector.  In fact, we might say that in an era of many (very many!) good books and wonderful seminars and workshops on leadership, we have made little progress in “creating” good leaders.

I’m not sure I know the answer to this.  (Well, that’s a surprise!)  Seriously, our best minds continue to tackle this, and we seem to have made little progress.

But I think this…  Leadership “training” is not quite possible.  Leadership is simply not a “trainable” skill.  And I’m really not sure that “Leadership Development” is the right phrase either.

I do think it requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and the goal is that a person in any position that has “Leadership” as part of the job requirement and expectation needs to be “ready” for whatever challenge confronts him or her next.  The ability to accurately identify, and then rise to that next challenge, some foreseen, and other utterly unforeseen — the ability to be “ready” to face that next challenge, with a clear plan to overcome that challenge — this is the crux of the “is this person a good leader?” test.

So, whether we call it Leadership Development, or something else, what we need is this:  genuine Leadership Readiness.  When a challenge appears, and a leader leads the folks through to the most successful outcome in the midst of that challenge – that is leadership!  Any person with “leader” as part of his or her job title who fails to identify the challenge, and rally the folks to meet that challenge, has failed at leadership, and “leader” is just an empty title…

Getting a person to a position to succeed at this challenging task — a task that many people fail to rise to — this is what we are talking about with our “Leadership Training,” “Leadership Development” efforts.


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