Monday, August 17, 2009

What if everyone thought like a leader?

The last few weeks have been full of discussions of leadership training. Virtual worlds can provide some excellent opportunities for leadership development and I love talking about the possibilities.

What bothers me about leadership development training is that it shouldn't be for just a select few--its how EVERY employee should be trained. Don't we want everyone to think more critically about how to do their jobs? Don't we want to have organizations full of insight, team building, mentoring, and feedback-sharing?

I remember my frustration with gifted education when I was teaching. Not that there was anything wrong with the gifted education programs--on the contrary. Every student deserves to be treated like they are gifted. All of the research showed that if you taught to the highest common denominator instead of the lowest, ALL students improved. Why shouldn't we be creating individual education plans for all students? Why wouldn't we set high expectations for everyone? Why shouldn't we be pushing everyone to reach their highest potential?

I understand that leaders need people to lead. But the truth is, good leaders DO have high expectations, DO push us to be better, DO encourage us to think critically and take on responsibility.

How different would your organization be if you trained everyone to think like a leader?


  1. Boy, you hit on a sore spot for me! The reality is, organizations spend money because they *have* to, not because they want to. The attitude is that they can get away with Joe Average being a poor leader, but once he becomes Joe Manager, they better do something about it. As a result, some orgs seem to think that "management" and "leadership" have something to do with each other, while normal people know that typically the best leaders in any situation don't get anywhere near management jobs. And some organizations actually embrace that.... but not enough.

    Many organizations have the concept of "moving up the middle," the notion that the org should focus on turning good performers into GREAT performers, not on turning poor performers into acceptable ones. That actually makes a lot of sense; however, these same orgs mistakenly assume their good performers are already in management roles; really great individual contributors get left out (unless, of course, they're "high potentials" on a management track). That just sounds silly when you read it, but who ever said it was supposed to make sense?

  2. I expect the lack of availability of typical leadership content from mid management and rank-and-file offerings is a function of old school thinking, often perpetuated by HR departments who purchase the leadership training. The belief is that folks in the middle layer are in the "execution phase" so they don't need strategy; and folks at the end of the line don't need to think critically. And, then, there's the cost issue - typically leadership programs cost more, (warranted or not) and having been both buyer and vendor, I know price has to be high to meet perceived value. expectations.