The end of Leadership Development as we know it..

Earlier this week I got this call from a HR Manager of a major European Industry Group: “Our Managers went through great and very expensive international leadership programs. They really enjoyed the trainings and the feedback was excellent. There is just one problem: the quality of Leadership has not improved at all – on the contrary –  as our employee surveys show. This is deeply dissatisfying! We are looking for something different, some development approach that will help our colleagues to deal with their daily challenges in leading complexity”.

Many organizations are realizing the limitations of their current Leadership Development Programs. Nevertheless they still stick with it, perhaps for a felt lack of alternatives or the anxiety to try new approaches.  While it might be still very useful to train future leaders on basic people and task management tools & techniques, it will not support the kind of Leadership necessary to master social and technological complexity of today’s messy reality.

Organizational challenges call for people with a clear and calm mind, with the ability to inspire and empower others and to create a context for people to develop their full potential. And the strength to give clear feedback and directions if needed as well as integrating perspectives and turning them into actions.

People are inspired by WHO you are when you lead rather than what you say and do. So the development of Leadership is an inside job.

A different approach

Whenever we are invited to work with Leadership Teams we don’t talk about Leadership at all, but we focus on the Person using tools (like language and behavior) and not the tools themselves. Together with (future) leaders we find new and more powerful ways to interact with themselves and others.

Together we create spaces where they can openly talk, reflect, practice and meditate together, addressing all kinds of personal, not private issues. We help to refine and clear the mind and we stick with these groups for a long time, just reflecting and talking about their observations, learnings, successes and failures. We watch them growing and unfolding their potentials and hold this space over a longer period of time, until a new level of power appears.

This is for sure not THE answer, but the way we go and see people grow.


Leadership is not an object to buy or to have, it is the result of a process of reflexion, introspection, awareness and self-consciousness. There are no answers granted out there, unfortunately or luckily.

Related articles:

The end of change management as we know it..

Stop changing – start being

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One thought on “The end of Leadership Development as we know it..

  1. Very interesting piece of writing. Leadership is not something to get or buy. Yet, I don’t believe it is a question of leadership and its development. It’s a systemic issue. The organization as a system is most of the time not embracing the leaderhip priciples it sets out to develop in these programs. It is not really leadership but ‘systemship’ that needs to be developed. I.e systemwide awareness of leading priciples that help to heal its very being… Does this make sense?


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