Executive Coaching Articles

Developing Leadership Skills

You want to progress and develop your leadership skills. And you think leadership training is the answer. After all, The American Society of Training and Development, reports that U.S. businesses spend more than $170 Billion dollars each year on leadership-based curriculum. Most of that is spent on “Leadership Training.”

But there is a difference between training and development. When leaders “train” far too often they do not “develop.” Don’t become so involved in training that you fail to develop. The distinction between training and development is vital. Here’s why:

Problem: Training indoctrinates processes and techniques. Training tells you about how to do things. It works off past experience. While training can say this is way things have been done in the past, it is less effective at showing you how to do things in the changing world of the future. When training teaches “best practices” – which may not be best at all—it discourages alternative thinking

Solution: Development educates and enriches. It looks at possibilities and allows you to test your ideas in real world situations. While leadership development focuses on current performance, it also directs you to future solutions.

Problem: Training works to generalities not specifics. By their nature training courses have to be adapted to a wide range of people and situations. It is seldom unique to an individual.

Solution: Development that focuses on the individual leader can encourage new and different practices. What talents and skills does this executive have that they can bring to the problem solving process? How can the innate personality of this particular leader be used to improve his or her communication skills, interpersonal relationships, and management style? Development looks forward, moves you out of your comfort zone, and explores the unknown.

Problem: Training is usually one directional. You have an instructor giving a monologue. Or manuals are disseminating information. Videos are broadcasting facts. It’s often one-sided.

Solution: Development that draws on coaching or mentoring invites interaction. Mentors and coaches listen as well as talk. Leaders can discuss, question, evaluate and learn not only in the class room, but also in the boardroom. This allows the one seeking development to learn and also brings in the real possibility that the mentor may discover expanded options as well.

Problem: Training standardizes the norm. Training looks at the things that have been successful in the past and then says, “This is how it should be done.” In our fast changing world, we cannot always rely on the past as a standard for the future.

Solution: Development moves beyond the norm. Great leaders are not satisfied rising to the standard of the norm. They want to exceed it. Development creates new and better ways of thinking. It helps companies evolve beyond the standardized measurements and invites brilliance.

As you work on developing leadership skills, don’t be too quick to take up more training. Check the source of the training. Evaluate whether your training will stifle or expand your leadership. Make sure your leadership development is individualized, creative, and stretches you beyond your comfort zone to create greatness.