A global economy means global competition. It also means complicated transnational economic environments; divergent regulations; and complicated networks of suppliers, customers, and business partners. Perhaps now more than ever, strong leaders are needed to help ensure the success of businesses in an economy that has become increasingly competitive—and increasingly complex.
But strong leaders can be hard to come by and even harder to develop. Still, as we discussed in a previous post, businesses and individuals spend a lot of time and money trying to develop leaders through leadership development training efforts that some say demonstrate questionable effectiveness.
The High Cost of Leadership Development
“A 2012 study found that American companies spend almost $14 billion annually on leadership development training,” writes Kristi Hedges in an article for Forbes. “There are thousands and thousands of books on leadership (including mine), training targeted at any function or level, and executive programs at the world’s most esteemed universities.”
And yet, as we’ve seen, there are a lot of people who say that these training efforts, and the associated costs, fail to generate desired results and may even be counterproductive. In a previous post, Martin Lanik tries to explain why current efforts may be falling flat.
Focus on Books and Classrooms
Lanik argues that too much time and money are spent on classroom learning and self-help books. Lanik cites data suggesting that classroom learning as a means of teaching specific skills is highly ineffective yet heavily used, in part because it’s an easy option.
Knowledge Is Not Skills
On a related note, Lanik points out that acquiring knowledge is not the same thing as developing a skill. Leaders need to develop skills like the ability to inspire, to organize, and to be decisive. Reading about how to do these things and actually doing them are obviously two very different things.
More Focus Needed on Improving Habits, Addressing Weaknesses
Instead of traditional educational models used in leadership development training, Lanik argues we should be focused more on developing strong habits and identifying and addressing specific weaknesses.
Strong leaders are needed in any number of environments, from politics to sports to education to business. But throwing money at trying to develop leaders through traditional leadership training programs has proven largely ineffective. The key, say some experts, is to focus more on developing skills and habits through experience and less on reading books in a classroom.
How could experiential learning come into play as you work to develop your leadership bench strength?