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Why Leadership Development Isn’t Developing Leaders

Today, businesses’ methods of developing leaders are not conducive to success. In fact, the exact opposite of what needs to be done is being carried out. To make matters worse, research suggests that one in three employees do not trust their employer. Deborah Rowland explains in an article for Harvard Business Review why the vast majority of leadership development programs are ineffective, and how they can be remedied.

Rethinking What Leading Is

Leadership programs are often simply set curricula delivered through individual-focused methods taught in a classroom. However, multiple studies have shown that successful leaders need to be intuitive, dynamic, collaborative, and grounded in here-and-now emotional intelligence—things the standard classroom does not always teach. So how do we develop this kind of leaders? Rowland shares four tips:

  1. Make it experimental.
  2. Influence participants’ “being” and not just their “doing.”
  3. Place development into its wider, systemic context.
  4. Enroll faculty who act less as experts and more as “Sherpas.”

Preplanned teaching schedules, content, lectures, and exercises simply make you think, not teach you how to lead through the proper channels. Neuroscience shows that we learn most, and retain that learning as changed behavior, when the emotional circuits within our brain are activated. How are those circuits activated? Through lived experience. Rowland calls this “living laboratory” leadership development. To do so, switch to constructing self-directed experiences for participants that replicate the precise context they need to lead in.

“Inner game,” or the capacity to tune into and regulate their emotional and mental states, is the first thing that leaders need to work on, according to Rowland’s research. Then what they actually need to do, or their “outer game,” can be developed:

It’s very hard for leaders to have courageous conversations about unhelpful reality until they can regulate their anxiety about appearing unpopular and until they’ve built their systemic capacity to view disturbance as transformational, not dysfunctional.

When leaders attend conferences and return with a shifted mindset, they are often set back because they return to companies who are still stuck in old routines. So we need to use the lived leadership development experience as an opportunity to tune into and shift that old system.

The last part of better leadership programs is making sure the people who lead these programs are competent and carry their respective shares of the load–hence, Sherpas. They should be able to operate across different types of leadership methodologies and dynamic environments. To make this possible, these people should be continuous learners themselves.

You can access the original article here: https://hbr.org/2016/10/why-leadership-development-isnt-developing-leaders

About Melissa Colon

Melissa is a staff writer for AITS, with a background in journalism. She has previously written for York Dispatch and York Daily Record.

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