The Problem with Leadership Training

Many young managers are put onto leadership courses and workshops as part and parcel of their climb up the management ladder. Now every new workshop and seminar should give insights into leadership and the sheer magic of team building but, do they?

Career progression is arguably more important than ever, with both organisations and individuals mapping out their next steps to keep up to date with the skills required in the role. For some people, this progression often involves leadership training as they seek out management positions.

However, there appears to be a problem with leadership training as we blithely dispense tools and techniques without talking about what is really at issue. People working together have personalities that merge or collide, and collisions can cause tension. If that tension is not addressed, it will surface in workplace conflict, jurisdictional battles, political intrigue, hurt feelings, and lost productivity. Yet leadership trainers often shy away from tackling those problems head on.

Superior Beings

Many leadership courses appear to be based on the notion that leaders have a fundamentally different task from the people they supervise. Only the leaders or leaders-in-training are in the room for those sessions. Why? What exactly makes leaders different from other employees? Someone higher up the chain conferred on that person a label that says ‘bureaucracy’. What is significant about the conferred-from-above leadership status is that it gives additional power to the person who has named a leader. However, such power is inextricably linked to fear.

The Fear Factor

This is exactly what is wrong in leadership training and in corporate leadership. If the fear factor was removed from the mix, things would run a lot smoother. Most of us have seen fear-based, petty bureaucrats with no imagination or spark leading teams. They go on leadership training courses where only other so-called leaders fill the room. The actual employees who do the work are nowhere to be seen.

Evidently the magical secrets of leadership are not for the eyes and ears of common workers. So what does that exclusivity tell us? We do not have to lead in the bureaucratic style anymore. The age of the human workplace is here. Technology and global markets are screaming this reality at us. The very best people will not play this outdated game anymore. They will not submit to a fear-based culture. They are leading the way out of the closet and into the human workplace.

Leader and Managers: The Differences

The differences between leaders and managers are fundamental. Managers make sure that everything is controlled properly; leaders create the vision, the enthusiasm and the passion. The best leaders are those who inspire and create followers.

The confusion often lies with managers often assuming they are leaders without the motivational spark they need to give to employees. Again, once leadership courses enforce that the tasks of the manager are different to those they supervise, this causes the issue.

Challenge

One of the biggest challenges facing growth businesses is how to mature from a small owner-managed business, where the owner is at the hub of everything, into a medium-sized business run by a board and a team led by a leader rather than managed by a manager.

Taking the Lead

Businesses leaders usually make all the decisions, but as a business grows, depending upon the type of business it is, this responsibility must also be shared to create space for the leader to lead rather than do. And as the business grows it is important that the leader’s vision is not drowned by their desire to control every single aspect of the business.

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About the author

Gerald Irwin

Gerald Irwin is founder and director of Sutton Coldfield-based licensed insolvency practitioners and business advisers, Irwin Insolvency. He specialises in corporate recovery, insolvency, rescue and turnaround.