Leadership development (without the expensive programmes) Part 1

I often hear Development practitioners refering to Lombardo and Eichinger’s (Center for Creative Leadership) model of 70 – 20 -10. The model says that circa:

70% of our learning comes from on the job experiences, tasks and problem solving activity

20% from feedback we receive from others or the system, and from working through good and bad examples of what you are trying to do

10% from courses and reading

That’s right. Only about 10% of our learning comes from formal courses and reading. And yet, time and time again that is where organisations are putting the majority of their scarce development resources. They cling to the hope that “sheep dip” style programmes will somehow generate enough learning, better managers and inspiring leaders. But they don’t.

In his recent research Nick Petrie (Centre for Creative Leadership) asked the question “What should be stopped or phased out in leadership development?” The answer? “Stop sending people to courses they don’t want to go to”. If not courses, then what? There are numerous learning opportunities for managers, leaders and indeed everyone with organisations if only they are recognised and harnessed. Bob Thomas calls these learning opportunities Crucibles of Leadership. Crucibles are particularly prevalent in times of change, times of impermanence. Times like we are experiencing right now. Rich learning opportunities exist all around us.

Bob Thomas offers a simple first step. Work with individuals to help them to understand how they learn. As Bob says “Great leaders are great learners” (2008). The focus is on how an individual learns rather than what is learned. The emphasis is important. Once an individual understands how they learn best and under what conditions, it is much easier to recognise learning crucibles and exploit them. Crucibles alone do not create learning – it is how individuals respond to them and what they draw from them. The role of those supporting development in organisations should be to assist individuals to exploit the learning opportunities already to hand. Letting go of the development programme paradigm is needed and needed now; if for no other reason than most organisations simply can’t afford it.

In Part 2 I will look at some of the tactics and approaches that help individuals get the most from the learning opportunities, crucibles, they are presented with.


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