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Why Leadership Development Fails to Produce Good Leaders

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But he goes on to say that “arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent — the ability to build and maintain high-performing teams, and to inspire followers to set aside their selfish agendas to work for the common interest of the group.

So why, when leadership development and training programs proliferate, do we continue to see significant levels of failure in leaders today?

Part of the reason why leadership development programs fails is inextricably tied to our notions of what makes a good leader. Tasha Eurich, author of Bankable Leadership: Happy People, Bottom Line Results and the Power to Deliver Both argues “Though scientists spent most of the 19th century convinced that good leadership was inborn and fixed, the research of the early 20th century told a different story—that leadership is largely made. A recent study by Richard Arvey at Singapore’s NUS Business School revealed that up to 70 percent of leadership is learned. But business leaders are divided. The Center for Creative Leadership reports that 20 percent of C-level executives believe that leadership is born, and more than 28 percent believe it’s equally born and made. But, the evidence shows otherwise.”

Leadership training has become a big business, with publishers, universities and consultants jockeying to position themselves as the “go-to” partners and gurus to develop leaders, yet research shows most development programs fail to deliver expected returns.

I am convinced that the focus on leadership development is in the wrong place. Most initiatives focus on competencies, skill development and techniques, which in some ways is like re-arranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. Good leaders need to become masters of themselves before they can be masters of anything else.

Those involved in coaching leaders should ensure the following areas are emphasized:

Self-awareness. Leadership development needs to be an inside-out process that focuses less on competencies and skill acquisition and more on increasing your self-awareness and understanding how your leaders’ behaviour impacts others;

Emotional self-mastery. Again, a superficial program of increasing emotional intelligence through techniques and tips of such things as listening skills or facilitation skills avoids or neglects the more important requirement to understand, manage and master a leader’s emotions and how they understand and respond appropriately to the emotions of others;

A personal stake in self-development. Leadership development is frequently seen as the responsibility of the organization rather than a shared responsibility with potential and current leaders. Rarely have I heard a leader say he wants to take personal responsibility to become the best person he can be and take charge of his personal growth;

Recruit potential leaders that are humble; not those driven by hubris or ego. Organizations continue to recruit leaders who fit the stereotype of a charismatic, narcissistic with little humility and a big ego.

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This article was originally posted on the International Coach Federation Blog.  

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