[May 3, 2017] Trick question! In this leadership blog post today I will answer this trick question and point out what the biggest impediment to leadership improvement is today. A goal we desire is to improve leadership at all levels of maturity. So, when is it best to start leadership training?
Often we think of leadership training in a formal sense; in a lecture series, classroom study, formal on-the-job training, etc. Programs of Instruction are created, improved upon, and used to give us best practices on how to be a better leader. The problem? Leadership is not something that can be formally trained in a scripted manner; it’s something that must be evolved through the development of character, continuous mentoring, and creative growth.
Regular readers of my leadership blog will note that this is a theme of mine that goes back to its inception in 2013. As noted many times in the past, for a leader to be successful that leader must possess certain personal characteristics that make for a good person. There are also leader skills that must be learned but those are merely technical issues that anyone can achieve, given sufficient time. Without character, leadership training could never succeed.
There is never a best time to “start” leadership training because it’s not that effective. The key to making better leaders is to begin immediately developing leaders. The meaning of development versus training is the key to understanding this. Mike Myatt notes in a very good article that leadership training is actually an impediment to improving leaders. His insights are worthwhile and I recommend his articles where he destroys leadership myths one-by-one.
To illustrate we can all look back at our leader training in the past. Did it instantly make you a better leader? Clearly it did not. It may have given you some good information and great books to read (which do help some), but no one I’ve ever known came away any better than they arrived. Formalized training focuses on techniques, standards, efficiency, and is finite … not always the best method. Development focuses on people, maximizing potential, solutions, and on the infinite possibilities of better leadership.1
If we want better leaders, then we need to plan on a long-term strategy. Short, formal training events don’t work as advertised. They may do more harm than good because it fosters the assumption that such training can work in the short-term. To teach, coach, and mentor is the epitome of valued leadership.
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