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The No. 1 Thing People Get Wrong about Leadership Development

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / April 13, 2022
Most organizations believe leadership development training alone is the best solution to producing great leaders. That's a big mistake.

There are a lot of things that people get wrong about leadership development. However, the most common misconception is thinking that leadership development training alone is enough.

It’s not.

This is the reason 77% of businesses report that they struggle to find and develop leaders. Top management tends to believe their employees will become better leaders if they sit through a few hours of workshops. It doesn’t work that way. Everyone has different experiences, intelligence, and training requirements — feeding them theoretical concepts without practical work is useless.

Below, we’ll discuss why leadership development training alone is not enough and what’s the right approach. Let’s dive right into three reasons why leadership development alone is not enough.

1. It’s mostly theoretical. (Not every trainee needs theory.)

Certain learning styles are more suited for certain types of situations.

For instance, you can’t teach someone to be a leader in the conference room. You need to let them hone their skills in the field.

Most leadership development programs limit their training to a single workshop, a book, or a video course. If someone wants these things, they can go to YouTube and watch hours-long videos on leadership or purchase books.

Not all trainees need an indoor workshop discussing general strategies to be better leaders. Those already in key leading positions may benefit from these workshops as they have the basics clear with leadership experience.

However, those who are not well-versed in leadership roles need practical work. They need to be given responsibility and put in situations where their instinctive leadership abilities come to light.

2. Leadership development is about embracing complexity.

There’s nothing simple about leadership. It features complex concepts with hundreds of variables that cannot be summed up in a few hours of seminar.

We can’t expect people to be perfect leaders just by attending one or two of these programs.

Everyone is different in terms of experiences, mindsets, and intelligence levels. So if we want to get the best out of a person, they should develop and grow naturally.

This means giving them the freedom to fail, make mistakes, experiment, and try new things.

What I am trying to imply here is top management often expects their subordinates to start behaving like leaders after going through a leadership development program.

You can’t expect someone to become a great leader in a day or two. It takes years.

People take leadership development training as a magic wand that’ll turn them into visionary leaders with a single wave. That’s not how leadership develops.

3. Every leadership situation is different. Train with specifics in mind!

Leadership development is not about training to be a manager or a leader. It’s about teaching skills that will help potential leaders be better in any leadership situation.

It’s one thing to be a great leader of a small team, but being a good leader at scale is completely different.

Similarly, the way a leader deals with a crisis is different from the way he deals with a routine project. Moreover, dealing with employees is a completely different trait that requires a complete workshop of its own.

So the gist is that training people to be leaders is a good approach but only if that training is focused on any one module of leadership.

Teaching every kind of leadership tactic and style may make the trainee a jack of all trades but a master of none.

Once trained in that specific type of leadership, employees can use the same skill set to adapt to lead in any context. Likewise, it is very important to understand your audience before you start training them. And, as a general rule, the more specific the training, the better.

So what should be done instead?

Here’s the right approach to leadership development.

Recognize talent and keep it engaged.

Every superior needs to keep a check on her/his subordinates, their key traits, weaknesses, and overall performance.

As a result, this means they need to work closely with the team and not observe everyone from behind the desk.

Once they know where their team members lack, they can have them go through a custom-designed leadership development program for precise results.

Let them learn from you.

Every beta in a pack learns from the alpha for a long time before becoming its successor.

Likewise, the same goes for every organizational hierarchy. The CEOs, managers, and supervisors need to keep their subordinates close and encourage them to observe every move and decision they make, ask questions and ultimately learn from them.

Engage in practical decision-making.

The core trait of being a leader is to make calculated decisions with higher chances of success. Your people won’t learn this in a leadership development seminar or workshop.

As a result, every individual recognized for leadership potential should be put in charge of some smaller projects. They should take the lead, make mistakes, fail and learn.

This experience, combined with strategies shared in custom-designed leadership development training, will significantly help them evolve into strong leaders.

Parting Thoughts

Although there are many misconceptions about leadership development, relying on it alone to work wonders is the most common one! Granted, it’s an essential part of a successful career, but it’s not the only thing that leads to success.

Leaders need to be able to understand and embrace complexity and be able to handle every leadership crisis that comes their way. As a result, you can’t achieve this with just theoretical training.

Mixing practical applications with leadership development programs will help an organization achieve the desired results that they want to see in people in key positions.

About The Author

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Taha Khan is a professional content writer by trade. He is a business administration graduate with a focus and interest in marketing and entrepreneurship. Khan has been working as a content writer for several years and has collaborated with 100+ businesses on their content marketing projects. When not writing, he is probably reading – mostly going through psychology and philosophy books. And when Khan is not reading, he is gaming on his PC – another hobby mostly associated with introverts.

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