Why We Are Not Producing Better Leaders

We are facing a leadership crisis which impacts all aspects of our lives. It affects us in healthcare, government, business, education and in the church. Lack of leadership is shown when a person in a leadership position puts their own needs or personal agenda ahead of those they are charged to lead. Just because someone is in a leadership position does not make them a leader. You can be in a leadership position (supervisor, manager, director, executive, etc.) and not have any leadership abilities. This is called Positional Leadership and occurs when someone has some position of authority but is not practicing any form of leadership. These people are not usually very effective at what they do and only accomplish what they do because of their authority. They were probably promoted to their position because they did their job well at a lower level, but little evaluation was given to their potential for leadership. The better word to describe them is manager, not leader. We have all known people who fall into this category and, unfortunately, many of us may have worked for them.

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What is billed as leadership development today is usually focused on leadership as a skill when it actually is a process that must be prescribed and practiced every day using the same approach taken by professional athletes worldwide for decades. The one-size-fits-all approach to leadership development doesn’t consider an individual’s personality and capabilities. You can’t learn ‘skill x’ one day and expect to be a better leader the next. True leadership growth requires ongoing development and feedback. Added to this is the confusing advice on what is needed to be a good leader, when, all that is really needed is for the leader to be them self.

Why Most Leadership Training Fails

There is a plethora of leadership development programs being offered. Most are designed to keep the participants coming back again and again. Ironically, when leadership is taught at the university graduate school level, it is completely different. It is taught as a process that is personalized to the individual with appropriate feedback and mentoring. Consequently, the primary reasons most leadership training fails are because:

  • Training is skills-based versus process-based. Possessing the skills without the process only addresses a portion of what is needed to become a better leader. It’s like the chef and the ordinary cook setting out to make the same dish. They may both have the same ingredients, but the dish created by the chef will usually be much better because the chef knows the process intimately based on extensive practice in making the dish.
  • They use a one-size-fits-all instead of an individualized approach. Not everyone has the skills taught in the classes or can be good at them once they’ve learned them. Every person cannot become a leader. Our society would not survive if that happened, so we should stop fooling ourselves in thinking that anyone can be trained to be a leader.
  • There is no follow up or feedback loop to see if what was learned was properly implemented. This approach is contrary to that used in most organizational leadership academic programs and is supported by the Kolb Experiential Learning Cycle. Kolb views learning as a multi-stage integrated process with each stage supportive of and feeding into the next. Effective learning only occurs when a learner is able to execute all four stages of the model.

True leadership is a process that must be practiced every day to be effective. It’s like a maintenance drug for high blood pressure that must be taken daily to avoid potentially dire consequences. It’s like athletes, amateur or professional, who continually works hard to improve their already exceptional abilities in order to become better and more competitive. It is the same way any other professional works to become better, including:

  • Physicians
  • Musicians & Singers
  • Artists
  • Professors

This leads to the Professional Leadership Process™, which is an individualized, continuously improving leadership development process based on innate qualities, personality and abilities that is practiced every day incorporating regular reflection and coaching. The leadership development approach detailed in the book, The Path to Elite Level Leadership, is designed to be learned once and adaptable to almost any situation the leader or potential leader may encounter.