Leadership Education: Choosing the “Right” Path

Which Leadership Training option is optimal for you?

When I started researching leadership in pursuit of my doctorate, ultimately leading to a 2007 dissertation on Innovation Leadership, there were dozens – if not hundreds – of books and articles on the topic.  Even discounting the writing that confused management (working with direct reports) with leadership, there remained a plethora of stories, anecdotes, and even some attempts at definition of leadership. Sorting through this morass of publications yielded the conclusion that there were essentially two approaches to leadership being touted:

  1. Industrial (Modern) Age:  A power-based method of leadership (evidenced by Jack Welsh, General George Patton, even Steve Jobs), this involves generating (and regenerating) a clear vision for how the organization should appear and function, and cajoles – with carrots and sticks – the people needed to pursue that vision.  Roles are defined, and “human resources” are hired and fired to match the definitions of the roles.
  2. Digital (Postmodern) Age:  Clearly articulated by Robert Greenleaf in his 1982 volume, Servant Leadership, and more recently in Straw, et al.’s 2013 The Work of Leaders, this approach also involves defining a clear vision; but then aligns people who possess innate and acquired strengths and enables them to pursue the vision with a passion that erupts in conjunction with their own personal/professional growth.  Many organizations are successfully employing this model, including of course the likes of Google and Tesla Motors.
leadership path

The multi-dimensioned path to leadership.

Now, there are dozens of paths to either form of leadership – whichever you might choose.  (WE tend to believe that the Postmodern approach is more sustainable for the future.)  There are books, courses, on-line seminars, live workshops, retreats, and entire lines of periodicals dedicated to these methods.  Selecting the combination of these devices that will result in your own leadership growth is a matter of personal “fit” – how you best learn and retain new behaviors and attitudes.  Whichever way you go, WE suggest that you consider these factors as you make your selection:

  • Strong, proven theory:  Ensure that the programs you choose are well grounded in researched, demonstrated methods – from any instrumentation used (e.g., DiSC) to the overall approach.
  • Learning style fit:  Consider the ways in which the training is delivered – workshops, retreats, on-line courses, etc. – to fit with your own preferred learning style.
  • Accountability:  Does the program offer follow-up in the weeks and months following the training event/s?  Otherwise, the lessons learned diminish quickly after the single learning event (adult learners retain only about 3% of what was learned after only two weeks have passed).
  • Coaching:  Is individualized coaching available?  In concert with the accountability effort, can you receive individual coaching once the group training event/s have been completed?
  • Communities of Practice (CoP):  As part of the training, can you participate in a facilitated peer group where your questions can be addressed and you can offer support to others?
  • Mindfulness:  In addition to the theory and tactics of being a leader, does the course offer methods for you to employ, to become personally more effective as a person and a leader (e.g., mindfulness training for focus and mental clarity)?

Whatever you decide, WE offer our sincere best wishes for your success in becoming a fine leader – whether a team leader on a single project or a C-suite executive.  Have an equanimous career!

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