, Developing Real Leadership: The 5 BIG Mistakes ( # 2)

Developing Real Leadership: The 5 BIG Mistakes ( # 2)

February 8th, 2012 Posted by Leadership Coaching, Leadership Tools, Performance Coaching

Sending employees on 2 or 3 day leadership training courses…

If you’ve ever been on a 2 or 3 day training course I’ve no doubt that you learned a lot of valuable information and that the course was a great buzz…a fantastic cerebral hit!  You’ve probably come away from the course motivated to make loads of changes and become a truly great leader.

But what happens when you get back to your desk?  Generally there are hundreds of unread emails waiting for your urgent attention.  That little light on your phone is blinking away telling you have several phone messages also waiting for your urgent attention.  Don’t forget about your team…  They’ve been fighting the fires while you were away and now they all need a decision on this and a decision on that.  Soon those valuable lessons you learned during those two or three days recede into distant memory and you never get the opportunity to make any real and lasting change.

Organise your training in a series of short hits over a period of weeks to allow time for practice and feedback.

Apart from the inconvenience of being out of the office for two or three days at a time and never really being able to shut off to give the material the attention it deserves, does the core content actually deal with real leadership competencies?

And more to the point, does it help you develop them?  I would argue that they don’t and they can’t.  Orr and Sack (2009) suggest that no one has time for anything that isn’t going to help them do their job better or faster today.  Make sure that you provide skill building opportunities that are just-in-time for on-the-job application.

Real leadership stems from character and the thing with character is that it can’t be developed in a couple of days…no matter how well the material is delivered.  When I mentioned above that most courses are a ‘fantastic cerebral hit’ I wasn’t exaggerating.  Intellectually they are very stimulating but that’s the problem.

You see, most people know the competencies of great leaders but very few know how to develop those traits that makes them stand apart.  If it was as simple as understanding these traits we’d all be leaders but unfortunately this is not the case. It’s not the case because the area of the brain that is involved in, say, developing empathy (a core leadership attribute), is different from the area that is used to understand an intellectual task, such as risk analysis.

A large part of your leadership development should be on creating awareness, developing rapport, influencing and active listening skills.

Developing leadership competencies takes longer, it takes practice and it is largely a personal journey of understanding yourself, your fears and what makes you tick.

Sending employees on a two or three day training course is largely a ‘tick the box’ exercise for most organisations (merely an output) that rarely delivers on helping your people transform into great leaders…the real outcome.

Emotional Intelligence involves the circuitry of the brain that runs between the executive centres (prefrontal cortex) and the limbic system, which governs feelings, impulses and drives.  Skills based in the limbic areas, research shows, are best learned through motivation, extended practice and feedback.  The limbic brain is a much slower learner [than the neocortex used in intellectual learning] particularly when the challenge is to relearn deeply ingrained habits.

This difference matters immensely when trying to improve leadership skills: At their most basic level, those skills come down to habits learned early in life.  If those habits are no longer sufficient, or hold a person back, learning takes longer.  Re-educating the emotional brain for leadership learning, therefore, requires a different model from what works for the thinking brain: It needs lots of practice and repetition (Boyatzis, Goleman, & McKee, 2002).  That’s why standard two or three day leadership training courses don’t develop true leadership skills.

“Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned.” ~ Harold Geneen

Knowing what you know now!  Are you going to continue to be a follower and send your people on the same old “trusted” leadership courses or are you going to be a leader and try something new?  Something that will make all the difference!

Knowing what you know now!  Do you trust that you have leadership skills in you now or will you rely on a training course to tell you what they are?  Are you going to step up and trust yourself…and surprise yourself?



If you’d like to know more about how to achieve more in life or business, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.

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