Developing leaders is big business. Developing leaders has become a victim of its own success in that there is little willingness to change the model that for years has delivered the success. This is incongruent with the message that business needs to overhaul and revamp successful models in the name of innovation and the often punted line that the surest way to fail in the future, is to simply keep doing what you have always done.

EducationThe model that has been built is one where the DNA includes five-star accommodation, air-conditioned bus tours, precise timing and a detailed agenda where everything is crafted to keep the client happy. The curriculum is coloured by subject experts brought in to dispense content for impressive thick files that usually become dormant once the file-filler is back in the office. That been your experience?

To be fair, perhaps I am ignoring some of the good work done in this context and I will be the first to admit that there are indeed pockets of excellence in both thought and execution when it comes to leadership development. However, these pockets of excellence tend to be the exception and not the rule. There is cause for concern and when one considers the return on investment for such programmes, that concern enters the ‘red zone’.

Here are the top three fault lines running through current leadership development programmes:

1.   They are seen as programmes and not a process. This induces the wrong kind of measures and emphasis. However the biggest pitfall of this distinction is that the ‘programme’ serves in isolation to the meaningful integration of learning in the workplace. In some cases, what is learnt on the programme actually gets in the way of effectiveness in the workplace. The responsibility for this fault line rests as much with the client as it does with the educational institute tasked with the design.
2.   The wrong things are measured at the wrong time. Daily measures that track satisfaction drive most programmes where any score below 4.5 (out of 5) is not acceptable. What this means is that anytime a score below what is deemed acceptable is received, everyone goes into a tailspin. But what if measuring progress or learning cannot be linked (always) to fun, enjoyment and satisfaction? What if the real measure of learning can only be done months after the actual event as B. F. Skinner suggests when he said, ‘education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten’? We need a serious rethink of what is measured, how we do this and even, why we do it.
3.   Too much emphasis is placed on keeping the client happy. When the client approaches the ‘expert’ – or educational institution, they (the client) needs to trust the educators and allow them to do their job. I have worked on accounts where the constant interference has the educators in a perpetual state of panic and what happens is that the entire focus becomes one of keeping the client satisfied at the cost of real learning and development. Of course client involvement and engagement is essential but when this becomes overbearing and gets in the way of what needs happen, the educators involved need to grow a pair! Telling the client to leave them alone to do what it is they are being paid to do is never easy, but there are times when it has to be done. Notice I didn’t say it is not important that the client is happy – of course, the client needs to be happy! I said simply said that ‘too much’ emphasis is put on keeping the client happy.

Developing future leaders is too important a task to be undercut in these ways. Something needs to be said and the status quo needs to be challenged. It is that simple; it is that difficult.

TomorrowToday Global