Leadership Development is like sex education. By the time you get it, you’re no longer a virgin.
Astonishingly, most Leadership Development is delivered to people who are over 40. It is reserved for those who achieve a certain level in the hierarchy, it’s a reward for their advancement, a perk, a status symbol. But these are people who have already held management positions for some years, who have been responsible for leading teams. People who have already developed habits, good and bad, that are ingrained in how they lead.
It begs the question as to why they have been promoted. It’s not for their excellent leadership skills, unless they have acquired them by some happy accident, which is fairly unlikely.
And yet they have been promoted to ‘Leadership positions’, for which they now need to be developed.
Wouldn’t it be more sensible to develop people’s leadership abilities before they were asked to lead? And certainly before they are put in ‘Leadership positions’ where, one assumes, leading is a major part of the role?
It should come as a surprise to no-one therefore that, despite the billions of dollars spent on Leadership Development, we have a crisis of leadership today and a predominance of people in Leadership positions who are not very good at leading.
It’s just too late. The people who should really be being trained in how to lead are the young, those who will be moving into positions where they will need to lead. We seem to understand this because we have all sorts of youth programmes to develop leadership and life skills but as soon as the same people hit the workplace, we leave them alone for a couple of decades.
In fact, it’s often worse than that. Organisations spend a lot of money and effort selecting and attracting the very best candidates, often looking for participation in those very youth leadership schemes as evidence of their capabilities, and then infantilise them for the first two or three years by turning them into glorified admin assistants.
Imagine the return organisations would get if they actually invested in developing the leadership skills of these carefully selected recruits from day one; if they spent time and money developing them as individuals so that they would be prepared for the roles they will go on to hold.
It would certainly go a long way to solving the leadership crisis we face.