As leadership development professionals, we all understand the overarching goal of any leadership program we design: to improve organizational performance. But let’s take a moment to think about aspects of the potential impact of traditional leadership programs.
When MBA programs train young leaders they typically have them work through hundreds of organizational case studies. These case studies are but shallow descriptions of some small sliver of a real situation. Students are asked to rapidly prescribe a solution after considering it for, at best, a couple hours.
The result: these young leaders are being trained to make impactful decisions based on the shallowest understanding of any situation. A cold, disengaged analytical mindset is what they are forced to adopt. In fact, this is what they are being trained to adopt through the decisions of the educators who have designed their programs. Where does engagement and true caring factor into this?
When hundreds of thousands of young leaders have been trained in this way, decade after decade, it is no small wonder we end up with organizations, even society, functioning the way it currently does. We have organizations whose leaders fire large numbers of employees in order to satisfy analytical calculations; organizations who take advantage of externalities and destroy communities in the process. Cold and calculating, no doubt about it.
The work leadership development professionals do in organizations is subtle but immensely leveraged. So we need to ask ourselves: are we partly responsible for this trend within organizations? It’s not simply the content we deliver but also the pedagogical approach that we choose. Are we reinforcing a cold and uncaring approach to leadership by having leaders take e-learning programs or listening to lectures or webinars on how to best manage employees? These common approaches disconnect the participant from reality and serve to perpetuate and reinforce a cold and disengaged form of leadership.
As leadership development professionals we need to think carefully about our responsibilities. Individually we make a difference to our organization but collectively we make a difference to our society at large. From the plastics in our ocean to the heat trapped in our atmosphere, from the failing health care systems we depend on to the foods that we consume, things are the way they are due to managers making decisions within their organizations. And these managers have been heavily influenced by their education at various levels and the organizational leadership programs we develop.
In the future will we say, in our defence, that we were simply doing what we were told to do?
We have a responsibility to our organizations and to society as leadership development professionals. Will you choose cold and disengaged or connected and caring?
We make a big difference in this world, so let’s decide responsibly what this difference will be.
CoachingOurselves has been developed by Henry Mintzberg and Phil LeNir. It develops a caring and engaged approach to management. To learn more about how CoachingOurselves is changing the face of management and leadership development, discover 5 ways organizations are using CoachingOurselves.