Why Leadership programs fail?

As some of you may have noticed, I am very interested in Leadership and how it can impact a team and an organization. One of my mentor, Ted Hayes, my former teacher in Employee Engagement at George Washington University forwarded me a very interesting white paper written by +Nick Petrie  from the Center for Creative Leadership.

He worked on what is called Vertical Leadership Development which needs our attention. I base my article on his white paper that you can find here.

We all heard of Leadership development which are used to assess and develop leaders development at work. There is also this belief that we cannot improve our leadership which I understand when I see leaders going to workshops and coming back with more knowledge than before but not implementing critical changes in their work.

This is where Vertical Leadership comes into play. As Nick Petrie mentions it, current leadership development focus on providing more knowledge or proofs that leaders have to change. Another issue can be that the programs do not talk to the leaders which may also come back to work with no to few support to implement their changes. It can also be hard to implement a change when the program length does not go over few days. Unfortunately, I am not going to become the best cook ever by reading cooking books but by trying and getting advice from experts. This works the same way for leadership and many other subjects.

In the white paper "four common issues" are cited when explaining the failure of current Leadership programs:



  1. "Wrong Focus": Too much information not enough practical advice
  2. "Lack of connectivity": Program's content does not fit Leader's need
  3. "Leader in isolation": Back to work leaders are left alone without supports to help them change.
  4. "Too short": The programs lack a long term aspect. 
There are very good informational leadership programs. They give you a basic information on the topic you are interested in but the practical advice are either not "practical"enough or simply unexciting. 

Imagine going to a Leadership Program thinking that you will learn how to deal with the complex negotiations but you end up in a program about anger management. The program is for sure interesting but do not give you the key elements to achieve your goal, dealing with complex negotiations. 

After your super leadership program you come back to work with the determination to implement some recommendations you received. All exited you talk about your plans with your coworkers and employees but no one seems to truly care. You may try some tricks but it will never fully work because people are too absorbed by their work. 

Another pitfall with Leadership Program is their shortness. They are sometimes planed as vaccines with yearly injection but no follow up in between programs. That may trigger a feeling of hopelessness that ends up in low employee engagement. You, as an organization, may provide tools to help your employees and leaders to grow but you do not give them the support needed to implement the changes necessary. 

Leadership programs can be disregarded by leaders because they do not find the help they are looking for or they are not really interested in growing. Growth is a long and hard process where your assumptions are shaken and where you need to change your mindset in order to go further. Growth can be very beneficial for your organization and its individuals but it is not easy. 

As we know that growth take time and effort when need to consider the impact of both factors on the way we develop leadership programs. The aim of Vertical development is to accompany leaders in their development by providing adequate programs, with the required support and length.

The question is now: How can we develop better leadership programs?  






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