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Challenging Leadership Development

Leadership programmes can be a great way to develop leaders both individually and collectively. Increasingly, it seems that the content provides just a convenient backbone for the greater value which is of course the conversations.

Connecting, coaching, talking, sharing, collaborating and building relationships becomes the fulcrum for action. Content far less so. Our quite reasonable assumption is that this interaction and learning positively impacts the work of leaders and the organisation.

However, to varying degrees, I think we’re consistently missing a trick. In fact I strongly feel it’s becoming a failure. We’ve become stuck on the learning and action of individuals and have underutilised the potential learning and action their collective intelligence can create.

Yes, we may have action learning sets, group projects or even “dragons dens” to pitch ideas & innovations. All positive activities. However, that channel back into the whole organisation is narrow. It focuses on specific incremental changes that have come from great ideas. Perhaps dare I say it the easier stuff.

What’s not being addressed are the systemic challenges.

What’s not being addressed are the collective dysfunctions of more senior leadership.

What’s not being addressed is the continuing good function of this cohort of leaders.

What’s not being addressed is how to develop the organisation as a whole.

Yet I can almost guarantee such challenges will be discussed when your organisations leaders attend your leadership development programme. If that’s not the case then you’ve got an even bigger problem than leadership development… These are all real leadership challenges.

So I believe we must challenge ourselves and organisational leaders to go further, to go deeper.

I believe we must set an expectation of organisational learning and organisational development alongside individual learning and development.

I believe we must make sure leadership development programmes make whole organisations better and more effective, not just their leaders.

It’s a big challenge and it’s a leadership challenge.

What could you do or are you actually preventing this from happening?


2 thoughts on “Challenging Leadership Development

  1. Hear, hear!

    Great call to arms David, I totally agree that leadership development programmes should intentionally aim to change and develop a whole organisations, that they should have an expectation of an impact beyond the participants in the room. How fab would that be! I guess there are already organisations out there who do this and there are those that don’t, who just point the finger and say “develop them and don’t make a mess”. I guess we need to be ready to make a mess!


    Posted by kevwyke | April 26, 2015, 9:19 PM
    • That’s it Kev. Leadership development with meaningful organisational development as the output. I do actually wonder if anyone at all out there sets out this way… My sense is that many will be put off by the potential impact but in my experience, as soon as you get good leaders together on a leadership development programme you’ve already opened Pandora’s box!


      Posted by David Goddin | April 28, 2015, 8:22 PM


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