Man at whiteboardMcKinsey Quarterly has another good article on Why Leadership Development Programs Fail. Essentially, their proposition is that these programs fail due to:

  1. Poor context setting.
  2. Decoupling programs from real work.
  3. The difficulty of changing mindsets.
  4. Failing to measure results.

I’ve blogged about several of these issues, particularly to problem of not integrating programs with work and failing to measure results. The other two are interesting issues though and deserve some examination.

In terms of context setting though, I was surprised to see this one in the list. The article states that “A brilliant leader in one situation does not necessarily perform well in another.” I suppose the author is a believer in Situational and Contingency theories of Leadership.

I guess the reason I was surprised is that different contexts may not require different leadership skills but would definitely require different management skills. I think the difference between these two is important. If management is about logic and leadership is about emotion, then different contexts require different management skills, not different leadership skills.

The problem then is that we are teaching people how to lead instead of how to manage. If leadership is a behaviour that is hard to change but management skills are easier to acquire then trying to improve leadership is very much a problem when what you should be improving is management.