Leadership Development – Skills Beyond the Status Quo

By Al Gonzalez

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

I am always amazed by a large number of skeptics and cynics when it comes to leadership development.

During too many of my sessions, I spend valuable time dealing with this issue, and it does not make sense to me.

Let me share an analogy that I use during sessions to handle the skeptical and cynical tendencies of audiences regarding leadership development tools.

The Kitchen Analogy

Let’s say you are renovating your kitchen, and you are friends with Derek and me.

Derek has a workshop that is bigger than my garage. In his workshop, Derek has hundreds of perfectly organized tools. They are all labeled, and he has used them himself to redo his own kitchen.

Then, there is me. While I can cook better than Derek, my garage looks more like my son’s bedroom after a play date.

My few tools are scattered all over the place, my air compressor is buried under my kids’ toys, and my use of tools is limited to screwdrivers and wrenches.

So, who would you ask to help you with your kitchen project? Derek, with his tools and experience, or me, with my recipes?

You would ask Derek, wouldn’t you? I actually would. Derek is a good friend of mine, and I trust him to help me with any house project. He built the shelves in my garage and helped us redo our downstairs.

Tools and Experience

Now, why would you ask Derek?

Because he has the right tools and has experience using them.

You would trust Derek with the project because he knows what he is doing with tools and has experience. In any renovation project, unexpected things come up. And between me and me, he is the better choice.

The fact that you would not trust me with the project does not mean that I am a bad person. It simply means that Derek is better qualified to do the job.

Let’s take a moment to think about this analogy and why it means something to leadership development.

The Right Tool

Derek is better qualified than me. Why is he better qualified?

Because he has developed experience using the right tools for the job. In other words, he has invested the time to learn how to use the tools, and he has spent time using them.

Are you starting to see why I use this analogy to deal with skeptics and cynics in my leadership development workshops? Leading people is complicated, and as managers, we must develop experience using tools that help us engage and motivate our staff.

If we are going to be skeptical and cynical about learning tools that can help us improve our leadership skills, why should anyone trust us to lead?

This leads me to a very important clarification. Being in management does not make us leaders.

Leaders Lead People

In the article ‘What is Leadership?‘, Kevin Kruse, a NY Times bestselling author, does a wonderful job of explaining why leadership has nothing to do with titles or being in management.

Kevin explains that leadership and management are not synonymous. He says that if we have people in our down the line, and we have budget responsibilities, that is good for us.

Hopefully, we are good managers. Good managers need to plan, measure, monitor, coordinate, solve, hire, fire, and so many other things.

Still, typically, managers manage things. Leaders lead people.

Kevin’s definition of leadership is excellent: Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal.

Social influence and maximizing efforts towards the achievement of a goal.

This is critical because the numbers are telling us that the majority of our managers are definitely not maximizing efforts and, if anything, they are influencing negative behaviors.

Status Quo

This brings me to the case of leading beyond the status quo.

The problem that so many have encountered during their careers is that it appears the vast majority of managers lack the tools and experience to lead others effectively.

The following numbers are alarming:

  • According to a study posted on HBR.org, the majority of managers attend leadership training ten years after they start supervising people. On average, supervisors attend leadership training at age 42!
  • Deloitte, one of the largest professional services organizations in the world, conducted research revealing that only 20% of people are passionate about their jobs.
  • Gallup has estimated that actively disengaged employees cost our economy up to  $450 billion. Imagine the impact if we could cut that number by 50% and add $175 billion back into our economy. This alone seems like a good reason to improve the quality of leadership in the workplace.

In other words, 80% of people are not passionate about what they do. 80%!

But Wait, There’s More

Let’s look at bullying in the workplace. According to an article on hr.blr.com, between 35% and 50% of workers have been bullied or otherwise abused in their workplaces at some point during their careers.

As if this isn’t bad enough, it appears that 31% of human resources personnel have been bullied.

Let’s summarize the status quo:

  • 80% of employees are not passionate about what they do.
  • Disengaged employees cost the economy
  • 35% to 50% of workers have been bullied at their workplace

And still, there are large numbers of managers that dismiss leadership training. Therefore, on average, supervisors attend leadership training ten years after they start supervising people!

Do you see a connection?

Influence and Motivate

If we are not going to take the time to learn these tools, why should anyone trust us to lead teams?

In conclusion, you would not ask me to help you with your kitchen project. Why? Because I am inexperienced and don’t know how to use the right tools for the job.

More than likely, I would make a mess of things.

Unfortunately, it seems that we are hiring a lot of inexperienced managers that don’t know how to use the right tools to influence and motivate their employees on this project we call our workplace.

The numbers are telling us that we have a big mess, and as the popular saying goes, numbers don’t lie.

How Do You Handle Leadership Development?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Al Gonzalez
Al Gonzalez
Al has worked for 16 years helping others maximize the quality of their leadership at Motorola, CBS Sports, and Cornell University. He’s used these experiences to develop trust-based leadership tools for all levels of management.
  • Walt Hoff says:

    I would bet a lot of the resistance you are get are from the most senior leaders in the organization, who feel they don’t need training. According to the many first and second-line leaders going through my sessions, the senior leaders need it the most. Why can’t organizations understand this? Great leadership starts with the top leaders understanding that they need to show the example -go through the development process, then led the way for others to follow.

  • Chris Halladay says:

    I agree with Walt. Many senior leaders take the fact that they got the job as proof they have all the tools and experience. Too many still see leadership as “something your are born with” or an outcome of “charisma” instead of a set of skills that require practice to master and continuous sharpening to keep functional, just like every important skill. Great analogy, Al.

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