Avoid off-the-shelf leadership programmes. Pret-a-porter leadership development is attractive but unlikely to be a good solution. There are no universal leadership skills. There are no ‘four characteristics of the leader’, or ’10 personality traits of a good leader’. These lists are a myth. I don’t care if they come packaged with lots of ‘research’ or backed up by a database in the thousands of ‘peer companies’. They are made up. Or out of date, or out of sync.
Leadership development needs to be crafted case by case. Yes, there are ‘universal issues’ and ‘hot topics, but a leadership programme needs to be cooked out of the right ingredients. Off-the-shelf programmes are attractive, handy, promising, and usually put on your table with the label of a particular management guru or ‘well-known people’ who do this stuff.
Yes, sure, you can put your workforce through one of these and it won’t be a waste. There will be ahas! and learning and some benefits. But this is far from a true leadership development programme because this is something that can only be crafted for a particular company, in particular circumstances, with particular people. Yes, perhaps borrowing pieces from here and there.
In one of my latest Leadership development engagements, we spent a ‘disproportionate’ amount of time on the issue of control: ‘Lose control, to gain more control’ (Disruptive Ideas, 2008). Why? That was issue number one for those leaders. Their number one need individually and collectively. I could guess that this topic would be rather universal (and it ranks pretty high on my radar screen), but I don’t know. I know what that particular client needed.
No company goes to a library of mission and values and ‘buys’ the one of peer A, or competitor B, or fashion-ist C. You build this system from within. Or you should! It’s hard to see how packaged sets of Leadership Development competences should be adopted un-critically. But this is what many companies do.
Pret-a-porter works for clothes. Off-the-shelf packages work for accounting. Leadership is an art and a praxis. As an art, it’s like going to an art school: you don’t get a pre-made ‘portrait kit’. As a praxis, it’s like going to the gym: nobody else can do it for you. Buy as many pencils, or as many treadmills as you want, but…
Dr Leandro Herrero is the CEO and Chief Organization Architect of The Chalfont Project , an international firm of organizational architects. He is the pioneer of Viral ChangeTM, a people Mobilizing Platform, a methodology that delivers large scale behavioural and cultural change in organizations, which creates lasting capacity for changeability.
Dr Herrero is also an Executive Fellow at the Centre for the Future of Organization, Drucker School of Management. An international speaker, Dr Herrero is available for virtual speaking engagements  and can be reached at: The Chalfont Project .
His latest book, The Flipping Point  is available to buy from all major online bookstores.