Why traditional leadership development training doesn’t work

In today’s rapidly evolving and complex world, the need for effective leadership development has become increasingly critical across various sectors and industries. This necessity arises from a confluence of factors, including the changing nature of work, the diverse and globalised workforce, and the challenges posed by technological advancements. 

As work environments become more dynamic and unpredictable, leaders are expected to navigate through uncertainty while making informed decisions.  In a world where change is constant, leaders need to possess the ability to inspire and guide their teams to embrace innovation and  new ideas. 

Leaders today must possess a unique blend of adaptive, cultural, technological, and interpersonal skills to successfully navigate challenges and seize opportunities. Investing in leadership development is an investment in the future of an organisation. It empowers individuals to lead with robust vulnerability, confidence, drive innovation, and cultivate a positive impact on their teams and organisations. 

We know there are many benefits to leadership development. Effective leaders serve as guiding lights for their teams and organisations. They provide vision, purpose, direction, and motivation, inspiring others to work collaboratively towards common goals. For a while now, there has been growing recognition among the organisations we work with, that leadership development shouldn’t be restricted to those that are in or close to the C-Suite. Leadership development needs to upskill today’s leaders and develop those at all levels to become future fit leaders of tomorrow. 

Employee development plays a pivotal role in succession planning and leadership development. By investing in training and mentoring programmes, organisations can identify high-potential individuals and nurture them for leadership roles. This not only ensures a seamless transition of leadership but also cultivates a pipeline of skilled professionals who are ready to step into critical positions, safeguarding the organisation against talent gaps. We have over the years witnessed, across many industry sectors, an experience and knowledge gap in middle management. This has continued to form and, over long periods, organisations focused on engaging new recruits and C-suite, to some extent ignoring middle management. The middle tier was only focused on once issues accrued and/or questions were asked surrounding their development and ongoing support. Many organisations found that middle management/ leadership roles were resourced either through being promoted by tenure or by the system when they were not sure what to do with the individual. This is a fundamental issue for any organisation.  How do you support your organisation in forming a clear development journey across the entire organisation? 

Why traditional leadership development no longer works 

Traditional executive education, while valuable in many ways, has been plagued by several issues. Organisations realise that to thrive in today’s ever-changing landscape, they need to develop new skills, and not rely on the ones that helped them in the past. Organisations are looking for more practical skills such as communication, inspiration, motivation and skills needed to bring teams together. They also need longer term interventions. In and out style training is becoming less attractive as organisations look for continuous development. Therefore, are the days of chalk and talk becoming redundant? We have found that bringing an individual on a journey, which is experiential and embodied has a lasting and profound impact on the Individual’s skillset One of the most significant issues we’ve heard about is the rigid one-size-fits-all approach. A lot of programmes offer a standard out of the box curriculum that tends not to align with the specific needs of the organisation. This can lead to a lack of engagement and relevance, as executives often have specific challenges and goals that require tailored learning experiences. 

Another challenge lies in the speed of change in today’s business landscape. Traditional executive education programmes often struggle to keep up with rapidly evolving industries, technologies, and market dynamics. The curriculum development process can be slow, leading to outdated content that may not address the most pressing and current issues faced by executives. This limitation undermines the relevance and effectiveness of the education provided. 

The lack of interactivity and real-world application is another shortcoming. Learning is often passive, relying heavily on lectures and theoretical discussions. This approach can limit participants’ ability to engage deeply with the material and apply it directly to their roles, hindering the development of practical skills and insights. 

We have seen a significant increase in demand from organisations seeking customised, cohort based programmes that focus on the specific needs and objectives of the organisation. Relevance is key. I’ve read in many articles recently and heard from clients that in order to engage with participants, they need to see how this programme is relevant to them right now. The other disconnect we’ve heard about is the gap between what’s been taught and when it’s applied. Being able to participate in experiential learning and embody the new approaches that are being learned allows participants to experience the newly acquired skill straight away, enabling them to practice and make mistakes before taking it into the real world. 

As the business landscape continues to evolve rapidly, there is a growing need for more adaptable and innovative approaches that address these shortcomings and provide executives with the tools they need to thrive in an ever-changing environment. 

Olivier Mythodrama has been delivering innovative and thought provoking leadership training for over 20 years. The people and organisations we have worked with describe our training as life changing. We think they’re right. We already work with some of the world’s leading businesses. Are you ready to join them?

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