5 for 5 blog – Leadership Development – a little rant

17 Aug



Good morning everyone.

This past week I had a chance to read through an article that talked about the idea that leadership development was in a crisis. Sadly, I believe that many people truly believe this. For me, I couldn’t be more opposed to that idea.

Early in my career, I sat around and waited to be picked. “Would they choose me to go to the leadership meeting? Could I be recognized as hi-po (high potential) so that I could get access to the same materials?” After waiting around long enough, I got lucky enough to get picked, but it was not through work. The pastor and associate pastor of the church I was attending at the time gave me the chance to go hear John Maxwell speak live while he was on his “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” book tour. It was amazing to hear him talk about how learning to lead was within everyone’s reach. From that day forward, I have chosen to pick myself (as Seth Godin would say) and do my own research and training. I also committed to making leadership available to everyone on my team and from peer groups that would show interest.

So when I hear that leadership development is in crisis, I am naturally very disappointed……mostly because I believe that organizations have the wrong view about how we can go about delivering this crucial material. Here is where I think we are as missing the boat on “Leadership Development”:

  • Leadership development does not have to be “expensive” – at least in terms of money. The cost is in time. Dedicated time. Focused time. Time is needed to curate and prepare material. There is more wonderful information being shared for FREE, on the internet and social media, at this time than ever before. There is more leadership development material available, if you are willing to look for it…..and there is more being shared every day. The problem is not the signal….often times there is a lot of noise. The problem is if organizations aren’t willing to do the research, you will find neither.
  • Leadership development is not about seeing immediate ROI. I’m exhausted with the current concepts, particularly when people pay a lot of money for high paid training organizations to come in, spend a week, and then expect next quarter’s financials to spring up overnight. We need to stop thinking about leadership development in the same way as “3minute abs” and start thinking about it like a farmer. Sowing seeds (non GMO, of course). I’m pretty sure that no farmer expects to go from planting to harvest in one week. It is a process. The right conditions have to exist. Only after an extended period of time will the seeds produce a harvest. An even better way to think about it rather than planting corn or wheat is planting fruit trees. It can take years for trees to begin producing fruit after they are planted.
  • Leadership development’s impact cannot be measured in dollars. In fact it can never likely get measured because the process of growth is so long and because the results are more likely to be in the form of grit, creativity, collaboration and a great culture than it is in dollars and cents. How do you measure a team that pulls together to help each other out, not because they are told to, but because they want to…how do you measure teams pulling together across disciplines and setting aside personal gain so that we can help the business or a customer?
  • Lastly, leadership development should absolutely be inclusive, rather than exclusive. I was glad to see that the article at least touches on this. Our “investment’ needs to be inversely proportional to rank. We should overly invest in young and newer talent, as they are the next generation of leaders. But the other reason that this is important: if we teach our younger team members that this is how it should be done, then they will in turn do that someday for others….and that is how legacy is built. It doesn’t mean that we should neglect older or more experienced team members. Honestly, their training might need to be more focused around being vulnerable enough to say that they need the training in the first place. And certainly they should be most committed to planting seeds in the younger generations of team members. The leader’s job is to “empty their cup”…..to pass on what they have learned.

I believe that great leadership material is within the reach of anyone. I wish I could say I have it all figured out. But maybe that’s the great thing, I don’t have to…..all of the information, and more, that I could possibly want or need to stretch my thinking on leadership and creativity is now readily available. Especially to those managers who are looking to bring leadership training to their teams; all the books, talks, and blogs are there. You just need to do a little searching and start sharing. Even if you start small, just remember:

“Nobody made a bigger mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” – Edmund Burke

Here are this week’s 5 for 5 articles:

How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain – by Gretchen Reynolds – via the NY Times

A Relaxed Mind is a Productive Mind – by Daniel Goleman – via Mindful

Analogous Inspiration – by IDEO – via designkit.org

People Remember What You Say When You Paint a Picture – by Andrew Carton – via HBR

The Emotions That Make Us More Creative – by Scott Barry Kaufman – via HBR

  • https://hbr.org/2015/08/the-emotions-that-make-us-more-creative
  • SO WHAT: “The critical variable influencing one’s scope of attention is not emotional valence (positive vs. negative emotions) but motivational intensity, or how strongly you feel compelled to either approach or avoid something.” <- Fascinating
  • Tags: Creativity

All the best, kevin



3 thoughts on “5 for 5 blog – Leadership Development – a little rant

  1. Excellent perspective! I always felt that you should never ask a co-worker to do a task that you would not be willing to do yourself. When an out of the ordinary task, or new task comes up, do the job with them instead of just assigning. New employee or seasoned veteran, they will remember and hopefully pass this on when they come across a similar situation in the future. Baby steps! (Love the picture!)

  2. From the Paint A Picture article…”Quantification is the imagination’s mortal enemy.” As a data driven person, this one will be good to keep in mind!

    Thanks for continuing to post the 5 for 5 Kevin!

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