Why Leadership Development Isn’t Developing Leaders – Harvard Business Review

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Why Leadership Development Isn’t Developing Leaders – Harvard Business Review

Globally billions is spent every year on leadership development, and according to the research it is not working, 1/3 of employees still don’t trust their leaders.

The majority of leadership courses are based in the classroom environment where participants are taken out of their day-to-day work situations and are asked to analyse hypotheticals, receive feedback, and to absorb the latest theories.

Is there a better way for leaders to improve their actual on the ground leadership? Deborah Rowland in her Harvard Business Review article in 2016 writes on a better method.

In her belief leadership development requires these four factors for it to have impact and lasting change, “making it experiential; influencing participants’ “being,” not just “doing”; placing it into its wider, systemic content; and enrolling faculty who act less as experts and more as sherpas”.

“Neuroscience has shown us that we change and learn the most when the emotional circuits within our brain have been activated. We can’t simply think ourselves out of a habit”. Therefore the courses that have a behaviour self awareness focus will generally have more success for long term positive change within the participants. More so, if the course utilises a novel experience, this emotionally anchors the participant to the learning; this is where meaning is derived and becomes the reason ‘why’ for change.

Being able to regulate your emotional states by being more in charge of your inner game is vital for success. Being able to deploy the most appropriate behaviour to get the best result rather than your default behaviour is essential. By leadership development organisations “providing out-of-the-ordinary tasks enables leaders to tap into their inner world as powerful instrument for cultivating the vital skills of purpose, self awareness, empathy and acute attentional discipline”.

Organisations need to design a leadership culture systemically, so when participants return back to the workplace from development courses the organisation has in place a process to support the change, moreover has a culture where all individuals are engaged with the participants leadership journey.

Lastly faculty members and/or leadership consultants need to be the more sherpas, they need to be the “people able to carry part of the load in order to guide participants toward their personal and organisation summits”. These sherpas need to have the very personable and professional qualities that can work “skilfully with live group dynamics, creating psychological safety in the room for participants to take the personal risks and push cultural boundaries”.

This article supports the research and the approach that we have taken here at Strategic Self Awareness Ltd.

Our Self Awareness Leadership Development Activities (SALDA’s) weave adventure and contemporary leadership assessments together in order to create meaningful interactions where individuals can receive professional feedback to truly understand their reputation.

SALDA’s is our unique point of difference and a proven mechanism to –

  1. increase self awareness
  2. to initiate changes in undesirable behaviours
  3. to move your leaders from good to great

The very deliberate process of combining whitewater rafting and learning how to self guide in challenging environments (novel experience), discovering your behavioural reputation through contemporary leadership assessments (Hogan Assessments and 360 feedback), and finally receiving cohort feedback from the week long experience on how you conducted yourself throughout the tasks, is so participants can design positive and behaviour changing strategies that will build upon their leadership effectiveness back in the workplace in a very real manner.

Please get into contact if you would like to know more about our SALDA’s and how we can create that systemic and systematic leadership change culture within your organisation.


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