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The Most Effective Method for Developing Leaders

What are the main methods used in leadership development?


Formal coursework is just one of many methods for developing leaders. One-to-one mentoring, experiential learning, on-the-job training, online workshops and stretch projects with coaching can also be ways for effective leadership development among the conceptual, people-focused skills needed in leaders. The best model combines all of these elements in a systematic and positive way.


Unfortunately this seldom happens and when it does, it still fails over the long haul. Deborah Rowland (Why Leadership Development Isn’t Developing Leaders, 2016) cites the weakness of leadership development programs as curriculum-based programs that bear little resemblance to the workplace reality. "Participants," She said, "are taken out of their day-to-day workplaces to be inspired by expert faculty, work on case studies, receive personal feedback, and take away the latest leadership thinking (and badges for their resumes)" but what aspiring leaders learn in the workshops doesn't match what is needed in the workplace. Authors, Beer, Finnstrom and Schrader in "Why Leadership Training Fails--and What to Do About It (2016) noted, "American companies spend enormous amounts of money on employee training and education—$160 billion in the United States and close to $356 billion globally in 2015 alone—but they are not getting a good return on their investment." Why? Their article offers several reasons why that seem to boil down to built-in challenges and inertia. Companies and organization are built to do what they do and aren't really designed to be flexible and take advantage of the learning their leaders are being given. My personal favorite is action-based learning. Sometimes, simply diving in and "failing forward" as John Maxwell puts it is the best way to figure out one's own leadership style and developing success skills. It's the old story of learning how to swim, which actually happened to me. My dad, who had been a lifeguard and on his high school swim team, decided when it came time to teach his son how to swim, took me out to the swim platform in the middle of an upstate New York campground and threw me off. I remember quite clearly struggling to reach the surface while a wavy image of my Dad looking down at me shimmered just out of reach. After I finally clawed my way up and was gasping for air, Dad said calmly, now paddle like a dog. And just like that I was moving forward in the water.


Of course, I didn't do this to my own boys (although I thought about it, but my wife nixed the idea). To this day, I tend to prefer to simply jump in and let things sort themselves out. What do you think is the most effective method of developing leadership skills?

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