How to Choose the Right Leadership Training Program
Leadership training programs often give participants a better understanding of why leadership is essential in a business environment. They may leave feeling buoyed and hopeful for the future, but when they return to their desks, they will often find they lack the tools to actually lead. Too often leadership training inspires and captivates, but it doesn't teach micro-behavioral skills that are fundamental to leadership.
Unfortunately, leadership training focuses on trying to inspire people to be better leaders by reaching deep into their personality to discover a person's charismatic spark. Corporate executives often agree with this approach. I recently had a conversation with a training executive who admitted, "You can't teach leadership; it's an innate trait." Her sentiments were echoed by her colleagues.
The very language suggests that certain people, no matter how well they know their business or no matter how competent they are, will never become leaders. In this day and age, we can't afford to believe that only a certain population of people within a business are leaders. We work in a world where organizations operate as networks of projects and teams work across a matrix as opposed to a hierarchy. In the realities of corporate life everyone will have to lead projects and they must have tools necessary to start.
That's why leadership training should zero in on specific micro-behavioral skills people will need to work across silos and with teams. It needs to provide tools potential leaders can use to move agendas forward. Only when leadership is broken down to a series of micro skills will leadership training be able to be aligned with the business.
Here are five tips for choosing the right leadership training program for your organization:
1. Leadership is taught. Leadership training programs shouldn't be an inspirational speech that examines a cadre of special, charismatic leaders. Leadership training programs should teach the nuts and bolts of execution: how to map the political terrain, how to anticipate resistance, and how to sustain the momentum. In other words, participants need to master political and managerial competence.
2. Use the right vocabulary. Leadership training programs must be modified to reflect specific industry vocabulary and revolve around relevant case studies and examples. Without true integration, training won't resonate with participants.
3. The top dogs must be involved. Often, leadership programs fail because top leadership is complacent about the results. They don't engage nor do they participate in the learning process. As a result, participants check out before the training even begins. Leaders need to support and back the training program if you want increased participant interaction.
4. Follow through. Today, everyone is busy, and training is often whittled down to shorter and shorter sessions. Leadership training programs should ensure that the training doesn't end in the classroom. Programs should follow up with participates, so key skills learned can be measured and tracked. Moreover, a training cohort network should be established, through which participants can share their own lessons and ideas.
5. Train a diverse group. Leadership training programs should advocate for a broad participant pool to represent different functions and groups within a business. Interactions between these members will help connect and organization.
It is essential that you take the time to look at leadership not as a component of personality, but as a package of skills. These skills can be taught and be grounded within any organizational reality.
SAMUEL B. BACHARACH | Columnist | Director, Cornell's Institute of Workplace Studies
Samuel B. Bacharach is the McKelvey-Grant professor in the department of organizational behavior at Cornell University's ILR School, and is director of Cornell's Institute for Workplace Studies in New York City. Among his books are Get Them on Your Side and Keep Them on Your Side. His latest volume, A Good Idea Is Not Enough: Leading for Change and Innovation, will be published this November by BLG.