In an article on the Harvard Business Publishing site, Trina Soske and Jay A. Conger argue that leadership development programs fail for two reasons:

1.  They focus on the individual instead of on a leadership group

2.  They focus on behavioral competencies instead of on situational factors like how the leadership group is responding to competitive threats or shifts in strategy or other organizational specifics.

I couldn’t agree more, especially with #1.  The authors hit the nail on the head when they say, “The complexity, interconnectedness and transparency of today’s organizations mean that no one individual can get much accomplished by themselves. Most challenges and opportunities are systemic. Leadership is distributed and change now requires a collective sense and a coordinated set of actions.”

This is exactly why my own training and consulting practice focuses on onsite instructor-led training and facilitation for teams or work groups, despite the continuing protests in the learning and development field that this is an outdated model for learning.  When you send individuals to training—successful training that is—they come back with a new paradigm and a new vocabulary for expressing it.  When no one else in the group gets what they’re talking about, that new paradigm slowly fades away instead of producing behavioral change.  There is no reinforcement for the new language and new worldview, and perhaps there is even a sense of poking fun about it.  “Jay’s using those big words again, you can tell he’s been shipped off to leadership training.”

When you send teams or work groups to training, on the other hand, they are able to put their new concepts and ideas into practice as a group, and can reinforce each others’ new behaviors and collectively apply strategies for using the ideas to tackle specific organizational needs and challenges.

I believe this applies to nearly any type of  training you might provide, whether it be customer service or diversity or communication skills or supervisory skills.  Even so-called “hard skill” training topics can benefit from this approach.  Send your entire administrative staff to learn a new computer software together and they’ll learn more because they’ll be able to help each other with individual learning challenges and they can pool their ideas about how to use that software to improve operational efficiency.

What are your thoughts?  Does your organizational believe in leadership as a team sport?  Why or why not?

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