There have been many, many articles written over the last few years that speak to the short-comings of “leadership development” courses and programming.
Depending on the organization or the expert doing the writing, the reasons may vary with regard to why they believe that these programs aren’t delivering on long-term ROI – and what they believe the solutions are to that challenge. But, the basic premise of many of these stories is the same.
What Is Leadership?
This seems to be a simple question to answer, on its face. However, it is very, very complicated. Not only do experts and organizations define this differently, but its definition will also differ from place-to-place, society-to-society, and even person-to-person.
If that’s the case, how can we define leadership development? Never mind, implement it?
Leadership Development Is For Everyone.
The only way to truly accomplish the outcomes that many of us desire is to move away from the idea that leadership and leadership development only apply to certain environments, or people in specific, defined roles. We need to stop continuing to industrialize leadership development, and focus on true democratization of it instead.
The same logic (and research) that informs us that a doctor who knows a patient will provide better recommendations and treatments, therefore deliver better outcomes, also applies to leadership development. A coach or facilitator who truly understands the person they are serving, will be able to diagnose challenges with more clarity and depth, deliver highly relevant feedback, identify true KPIs that will show progress (or not!), and stay connected over longer periods of time.
And this type of human-focused solution is necessary across all areas of society. Young people, lower-income environments, incarcerated populations, and – yes – even in business.
It is unlikely (bordering on impossible) that any single organization can produce “silver bullets” that will support all coaches, organizations, facilitators, and students of leadership development. We cannot apply the same tools, frameworks, and content to all users and expect the same outcomes. It doesn’t work with diet, other areas of education, and it has been shown time and again to not work in the leadership development field.
Students of leadership development, which is just about all of us, need teachers and tools that meet them where they are, help them continue to strive for their goals by understanding their motivations, and speak in the same language that they already use to communicate.