Stop doing "leadership development" and start developing LEADERS!


At every workshop and intensive I ask leaders how important mindset and attitude are to their success and the success of their organizations…

Over the past five years, 100% of them have said it is either very important––or it’s absolutely essential.

Then I ask how much time and effort they’re investing directly in cultivating the mindset and attitude of the people they serve, particularly their organizational leadership.

Sadly, the vast majority––and I’m talking 80 to 90% say none at all.

None.

Of course there’s an understandable expectation that people will come to work with the right attitude and that leaders will provide a good example. But how do you leave the most important component of your success up to chance?

Every one of us knows, a human being, that attitude and mindset are fragile commodities. Personal issues, pressures, changing conditions and complacency are just a few of the things that can dramatically alter our mindset or affect our attitudes.

At the same time, we also know that classic “leadership development” is falling far short in producing the results business owners and CEOs expect. Recent reports indicate that as few as 34% of CEOs are satisfied with their investments in leadership development programs.

I know the reason why:

They focus on leadership development instead of developing the leader.

I’m not trying to be cute with words. I’ve studied multiple leadership development programs. They are too often centered on management process––lists of “things to do” and techniques for managing rather than leading people. Most of the time you’ll barely hear a mention of the humanity of leadership at all.

If you want to develop effective leaders, your focus must be on the leader––as a person.

Ever since Daniel Goleman enshrined the importance of “emotional intelligence” there has been a movement to at least acknowledge the value of fundamental interpersonal skills and principled human traits in leadership. I’d argue, however, that most programs either attempt to quantify these human qualities as some sort of interpersonal inventory, or they simply stop once they establish their importance without taking any substantive steps to help leaders improve themselves as people.

We can find process in leadership to be sure, but a leader is not a process. A leader is an actual human being––complex and susceptible to immeasurable variables emotionally and spiritually that require attention beyond the material process of management.

Now what I’m talking about is extremely difficult to measure. It’s nearly impossible, for example to quantify someone’s true capacity for courage or compassion until you test them under fire. While we can certainly test a person’s knowledge or intelligence, wisdom is a quality which only reveals itself in actual practice––it is an intangible sum of human experience and a human expression that is only apparent in a particular moment.

What is readily apparent, however, is the lack of satisfying performance when these qualities are missing. If you want to know what happens when a leadership team is lacking in these qualities, just look to the examples of organizations like Enron, HealthSouth and most recently, Wells Fargo and any number of companies now dealing with long tolerated sexual abuse in the workplace.

Fortunately, as difficult as these qualities are to measure, they can certainly be trained. At least to the point where you can reasonably expect that people will be better able to express these qualities when and where they’re needed.

Training leaders to be better people is simple. Not easy.

It requires commitment. It requires patience. And it requires steadfast support of those who exemplify positive qualities and a courageous rejection of those who don’t.

The process, if you want to call it that, is simple––but few people do it effectively. It’s not about stupid human tricks, rope courses or fire walks.

  • It’s about facilitating open and honest discussion.

  • It involves deep self-assessment and sometimes painful introspection.

  • It demands brutal honesty and the courage to expose weaknesses and areas for improvement––often a painful and uncomfortable process.

  • It requires a teacher who understands the humanity of the leader and prioritizes the person over any process.

And most of all, you need a teacher who is confident walking this tightrope of emotion while maintaining a positive and nurturing experience that also validates and builds on people’s strengths while inspiring them to embrace the ongoing process of self-improvement.

I do not train managers. I train leaders.

Most of all, I share the most powerful philosophy I’ve ever encountered. This is the philosophy I developed as I learned to transform myself from a drug abuser to a Black Belt––from a loser to a leader:

“Perfection is not a destination––it’s a never-ending process. Enjoy!”

If you want effective leaders in your organization, you must cultivate leaders who:

  • Understand and relate well to the people they serve.

  • Are emotionally intelligent.

  • Embody the characteristics of Courage, Compassion and Wisdom.

  • Are effective communicators.

  • Can attract and retain willing followers.

  • Are committed to the never-ending process of self-improvement.

  • And are dedicated to serving the people who trust in their leadership.

In martial arts we call these people “Sensei.”

That’s why I’m committed to helping people become better leaders by helping leaders become better people. I know that the best, most effective leaders for your organization are those willing to become…

The SENSEI LEADER.

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© 2020 by Black Belt Mindset Productions and Jim Bouchard