What Makes A Great Leader Today?

Many of us carry this image of this all-knowing Superhero who is here to do something bigger than us; something beyond us. We’ve made leadership about changing the world and have created outdated leadership development programs that are based on success models for a world that was, not a world that is coming.

With the number of leadership training conducted only in the U.S. yearly, every company should by now have at least five (5) highly influential leaders if the training were all successful. But it’s sad that most are a scam – rarely recognized as a waste pipe by many organizations that continually invest so much in leadership training programs. According to McKinsey, U.S. companies spend over $14 billion yearly on leadership training. A data from the Training Industry suggests a progressive growth of global expenditure on development training yearly, but the results are not following the same trend.

A survey by UK business school notes that only 7 percent of senior managers believe that their companies have effectively developed global leaders, whereas 30 percent of the US companies admitted that lack of skilled leaders has denied them chances of exploiting international business opportunities. Leadership development was identified as current and future priority by five hundred (500) executives asked to provide their first three human-capital priorities in a survey, about 75% of them choose leadership development as their first priority.

Many have identified poor creativity, style of the classroom and the training duration as major reasons why more leadership training fails. The problem should be seen as our choice of working with unproductive models to change a human mindset and behavior The more responsibilities we are exposed to, the lesser focused we become. An average adult can only recall about 10% of what is being preached in a classroom. And most leadership training programs are imposed on individuals already pushed to the extreme to be productive at their various workplaces.

Developing employees unit by unit have since been adopted as the most promising leadership development route. This provides distinctive training context which tries to handle challenges according to the units, forecasts and crucial leadership decisions. But that has not perfectly dealt with training failures in leadership development posed by many challenges. Here are our five reasons why leadership training programs always fail.

1) Context quality

Every training program must have a context that must be very clear to be successful. The setting, statement or idea that form leadership events are very key factors which do not always buttress leadership training that can be fully understood, considering the distinctive qualities of its participants. Also, to be a successful leader doesn’t mean you have the prerequisite to impart to people accordingly. By the way, teaching would fall into a different category if we want to classify skills.  A successful leader in some cases may fail to perform on a flip side of the same business events. This has been proven using academic studies where the CEO of a European services business was known to be extremely good when markets are speedily growing, but during an economic downturn, the same CEO could not provide viable financial decisions to lead the groups’ business unit. Most companies embark on leadership training with the notion that their candidates are suitable for the training in its undefined context. And this same ideology is administered by most training initiatives where every participant is meant to fit into a provided training path.

2) Lack of practicality

The connection between theoretical initiatives and the real business environment is blurry. Business cases are always peculiar to events and only match with the theoretical training by a little percentage. Candidates require extra skill to juxtapose theories into real-time business decisions. And recalling that adults are prone to remember less than 10% of what they learn in classroom discredits their chances of utilizing what has been taught in any effective manner. Aside from that, real-time practical learning only guarantees adults about 75% of what is taught. And when next do we think they would have the chance to explore the same scenario in a practical regime after the training sessions? Leadership training that is more refined to simultaneously handle business events have better chances of being successful than relying on practical questions to assume understanding and skill development.

Participants lack the push to demonstrate substantial understanding through real work experience that will enable them to home their new skills while applying the approaches. Companies fail to use major business projects as an opportunity for leadership development in view of providing a practical realm for the emerging trainees.

3) Improper evaluation of participants

Employees with the highest qualification are always considered for leadership training with plans that they only need to adjust their mindset to acquire the leadership qualities expected. Taking a different opinion temporarily (relatively in a classroom) does not guarantee a change in future behaviour when business decisions are crucial. People tend to do less in the area of learning as they grow older, including change of perception, no matter how qualified they are. And 90% of candidates in most leadership training programs are over 45 years old. The deepest thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, and feelings of these set of candidates must be clearly understood to drive any positive influence in their behavior as a prerequisite to adopting a higher performance in leadership.

4) Lack of power to implement new ideas

A research conducted by Harvard Business Review in the 1980s show that many companies campaigned and sponsored business transformation but were not ready to accept business models acquired from the various training.  It is worth noting that organizations send their employees for the purpose of enhancing their leadership role. HBR survey showed that some well-trained and motivated employees were not able to apply their new knowledge and business strategies when they returned from training. Because they lack the power to effect any change to the system. Could it be that some companies are actually sending employees for leadership training just to acquire skills they would still not accept? If this suggests that some newly acquired leadership skills are not more effective than old strategies, then we can conclude that some training programs were already failures before being delivered in training.

5) Lack of systems to directly measure results

Organizations are only able to justify their investment in leadership training by retaining the trained individuals in positions where they are required to lead. They simply lack systems to properly evaluate improvements in their leadership performances through business decisions. This indirectly sidelines the call for so much motivation to showcase measurable performance aside from other factors while also limiting access to identify leadership programs that have made realistic contributions to their candidate’s development. Similarly, the trainers are partially left blind on their context quality while also lacking an open system to sincerely assess their program credibility, identify areas that need to be improved and models most suitable with different categories of candidates.

Leadership training programs lack a system to assess behavioral change and to monitor career development that should have supported the trainees and company in monitoring realistic contributions made by training programs. Do we monitor business changes after training? We often overlook its impact on our businesses even when the training is tied to some business breakthroughs.

Companies looking to alleviate most errors that frustrate success in leadership training will need to carefully investigate the intrinsic behavior of their candidates; to ascertain the most viable context, matching suitable leadership development appropriately; while there is also a straightforward system to evaluate results and to monitor improvements.

Diana Coker
Diana Coker is a staff writer at The HR Digest, based in New York. She also reports for brands like Technowize. Diana covers HR news, corporate culture, employee benefits, compensation, and leadership. She loves writing HR success stories of individuals who inspire the world. She’s keen on political science and entertains her readers by covering usual workplace tactics.

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