Thinking of signing up for leadership training? Here are some of the biggest problems with leadership training courses - and how to find a program that avoids them.
Based on a survey by Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership, 70 percent of Americans think we are on the brink of a leadership crisis. Even more startling is that these respondents believe the lack of leadership will ultimately result in a national decline.
While investing in leadership training seems like it would be an antidote to this problem, a poll by research firm Brandon Hall Group revealed that 75 percent of organizations surveyed believe their leadership development programs are ineffective. Even though these companies have invested in leadership training, they still suffer from a lack of successful leadership.
Why is there such a gap between leadership training and leadership that actually works - especially when there is such a need for effective leadership?
At MacklinConnection, we understand the challenges involved with learning how to lead, including how to build confidence in yourself and gain the respect of others. We have spent over 30 years developing a leadership training method that has transformed our participants. However, we also acknowledge that the world of leadership training is not without its flaws. There is nothing more frustrating than spending money on something you think will help and feeling disappointed when you don’t see the results you were promised.
To help you decide if leadership training is going to be a worthwhile investment for you, we’re going to highlight these five major ways that leadership training fails:
From our experience, these are the major problems to look out for, so that you won’t waste your time and money on a program that won’t provide actual results.
In many leadership training courses, there are three ways the teaching style fails participants:
Research has shown interactive learning is better than a passive class. When students are an active participant in the learning process through discussions and reflective exercises, they are more likely to retain what they are being taught and actually apply it in their lives. Just listening to a lecture doesn’t allow you to engage with the material in the same way and doesn’t create a sustainable change in your skillset.
Leadership training is often conducted in a passive learning environment. This means you’ll be subjected to watching lectures or videos and you won’t actually have to participate. Maybe there will be time set aside for questions and answers, but, for the most part, you’re not involved in the learning process.
Additionally, many leadership courses are taught as a sprint, not as a marathon. Courses either take place in weekend workshops or as one event. Even if a leadership course meets multiple times, it usually isn’t enough for you to cement what you’re learning and apply it to your daily life. On average, it takes about two months for a new behavior to become automatic.
Developing leadership skills requires practice as you apply what you’re learning in the real world. But if your leadership training program only meets over a weekend, or just involves watching a video series, you won’t be able to try out your new skills and get feedback about your experiences.
In order for you to build confidence in yourself as a leader, it is important you get time to experiment with what you’re learning in your daily interactions and have opportunities to discuss what works and what doesn’t. Real learning doesn’t take place at the whiteboard in the locker room, it happens on the field in the middle of a game. Even if everything makes sense while you’re watching a video, it isn’t until you actually start applying the lesson in your life that you’ll know if you really get it or not.
Most leadership programs might mention team development, but center the course on goal setting, delegation and performance management. The content in leadership courses rarely focuses on what actually makes a good leader or how to build connected, successful teams. While communication skills and quarterly forecasting are important, they won’t help you create and lead a high-performing, engaged team - which is the reason for taking a leadership course.
An effective leader first and foremost needs to know how to lead themself. This process involves self-inquiry and reflection. Only when you better understand yourself, can you begin to understand others and how to communicate with them. If you don’t know who you are or what you want, how can you expect others to want to follow you? Additionally, knowing yourself allows you to better observe others and develop a sense of empathy. This is foundational to establishing effective teams that work well together. However, it is rare you’ll find a leadership seminar that spends any amount of time devoted to allowing you to evaluate yourself on this level.
No matter how much you can achieve on your own, in order for your team to thrive and create results together, you must be able to work well with others. Thus, It is also essential that leadership workshops teach you how to form meaningful connections with others, although it is unlikely you’ll find this on a leadership course syllabus. Even if it might initially seem like creating connections is more important socially than professionally, your ability to lead is dependent on how well you can connect with others.
In order for you to actually become a successful leader, you should look for leadership development programs focused on the knowledge and skills needed to guide teams. This requires a leadership workshop to be focused more on interpersonal behaviors than goal setting or developing Q2 projections.
Leadership training programs rarely evaluate the effectiveness of the program beyond a survey at the end of the course or a “before and after” questionnaire assessment. Usually, people aren’t actually answering these surveys honestly or have no real benchmark to determine what a great leader actually is.
Leadership is often defined as a position, instead of a way of being. This creates confusion in what successful leadership looks like. You might think that because you’ve moved up to a higher management position, you are a successful leader, and you start to equate effective leadership with career promotion.
When going through a leadership program, instead of allowing your position to determine success, changes in behavior should be evaluated instead. The focus should be on the skills leaders need to build a high-performing team - like the ability to create meaningful connections.
Companies often will force employees to attend leadership training workshops. If you get a promotion that requires you to start managing teams, you might be sent to a leadership training course to prepare you for the new role, even if you haven’t expressed any interest in going. Even worse, companies will often send employees to leadership training who receive poor performance reviews.
Even when participants actually do want to attend a leadership course, their reason for attending might prevent the actual changes needed to be an effective leader. Because leadership is often synonymous with success, some people who do want to take leadership classes might invest in order to get ahead. They are motivated by ambition-based reasons instead of focusing on how to foster better connections with their team.
Leadership training is not for everyone. Some people have no interest in making changes or trying new skills at work. Companies need to rethink who attends leadership programs and screen out those who are not likely to benefit from the training. It is a much better use of company resources to identify those with the right motivation, interest and talent for leadership, who will actually implement what they learn to benefit everyone in the workplace.
Additionally, instead of just sending one or two people to leadership training, it is advantageous for teams to complete leadership workshops together. Leadership training will help those teams work through challenges in real-time. Instead of one person going to a workshop and trying to implement changes company-wide, an entire team can learn together and begin to shift the company’s culture. As teams are the foundation of any organization, when teams work better together, the whole business can improve.
We’re going to be honest with you - effective leadership training is going to require you to get uncomfortable. You are going to be challenged to rewire the way you think about yourself and others. You will be encouraged to try things out and make mistakes – this is how you become a leader. This process requires a level of openness and curiosity that most leadership development courses shy away from.
Many weekend leadership workshops or academically-focused leadership seminars are not going to offer you a chance to get messy. There is only so much you can do in a condensed time frame with a large group of people. Even worse, virtual leadership courses that are largely structured with a classic “book learning” or video library framework will never provoke you to experiment for yourself or hold you accountable for trying new strategies.
True leadership skills are developed through trial and error. Without getting to test out different strategies and concepts for yourself, you won’t ever have an accurate sense of what really works for you. And then you’ll end up feeling like you still don’t know what you’re doing, even after paying thousands of dollars for a course.
When you are researching different leadership development programs, it is important to see if you’ll be given opportunities to experiment and practice what you’re learning in your daily life. It is important that you are challenged to actually try out new skills and given the chance to mess up throughout your experiments. By making mistakes and course-correcting, you will be able to get a solid sense of what actually works for you.
Too often, leadership training is conducted in a way that won’t actually teach you how to be an effective leader. You might come away from a leadership seminar with a couple bullet-point takeaways or inspirational quotes, but you won’t be given any opportunities to engage with the material and actually try things out. Leaders are born from experience and a willingness to experiment to find what actually works.
A strong leader also understands the importance of developing connections with other people, including how to best communicate with others to strengthen relationships. But most leadership training classes don’t teach the value of connecting with others, let alone where to start in developing these connections.
When leadership training is designed to allow you to discover who you are and how you can better relate to others and then practice what you’re learning, it helps you to become a more confident team member. This kind of training equips you to navigate challenges and facilitate impactful changes.
Because we understand (and have even experienced) how leadership development courses fail participants, we have created a program that prioritizes your success. Our leadership training program is led by an instructor who is dedicated to practicing what they teach. In our classes, you learn by doing, not by passively listening to a lecture. This allows you to actually embody the qualities of a leader, instead of just having information thrown at you that you don’t get to actually engage with.
If you feel like you’re ready to try a new way of leading yourself and others, here’s some more information to help you determine if our workshop might work for you:
To sign up for one of our upcoming workshops or to learn more about how we can create a workshop for your whole team, schedule a consultation.