Matrix Management

Why so much leadership training is a poor investment

After 15 years training leaders of ever more complex teams in over 300 of the world’s leading companies in 40 countries and delivering over 100,000 participant days of training, the Global Integration team  reached some startling conclusions with major implications for leadership training and development. Global Integration CEO Kevan Hall explains why the situation is still looking bleak:

At risk of repeating myself, leadership training has scarcely changed over the past two decades. If you search for leadership training programs on the websites of even some of the world’s leading business schools you will see approaches that have changed little since the ’70s and ’80s.

Yet leadership has changed radically. Leaders operate in multiple locations, across timezones, with highly diverse groups of employees and in much more complex and fast moving organizations. The gap between the new reality and the old-fashioned skills being taught on  leadership training programs not only means that much leadership training is a poor investment, it may even make things worse .

Take, for example, three key leadership myths often perpetuated within the current systems:

It’s all about teamwork

Much leadership training assumes that teamwork is the answer to any problem. Yet even great companies are struggling with an epidemic of cooperation. Managers spend 20% of their time in unnecessary meetings. Everyone wants to be involved in everything and teams are proposed as the answer. Team working often stops being a technique and becomes a corporate value. Yet teams are often ineffective, expensive and difficult to run.

Communication is the answer

Delegates often leave old-fashioned leadership training programs with the assumption that more communication will make things better. Yet in reality, lack of communication is absolutely a thing of the past. Today’s challenge now is disconnecting from the mass of trivia and seeing the few, really important messages. The average FTSE Company pays its people to write, send, read and delete over 240,000,000 pointless emails per year.

We need to be in control

Leadership training programs often promote unrealistic expectations of leaders who need to know all the answers and over-manage their people. Decentralized control and information in manufacturing have given us a quality revolution over the last 15 years. Management control in other areas, however, has become more centralized. This creates a damaging cycle of micromanagement and low expectations of people at work.

Most leadership training programs still carry these inaccurate assumptions from a much simpler leadership past. Leaders are working harder and harder to apply out of date skills to more complex, multi-site, virtual, cross-cultural and matrixed organizations. The answer is not working harder with the old skills but implementing faster and simpler ways of working.

Kevan Hall is the author of Speed Lead  (faster, simpler ways to manage people, projects and teams in complex companies). Contact Global Integration to find out more information about the Global Integration approach to leadership training, or to benchmark your organization.


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