Why So Many Leadership Programs Fail

Why So Many Leadership Programs Fail

In this video, I talk about why so many people fail to get the most out of their leadership programs. Some people refuse to face uncomfortable situations in order to talk about the issues. The question is, are you willing to put your emotions on the line and receive critical feedback without getting defensive?

Transcript Highlights

Lauren Simonetti:
Hi everybody, I’m Lauren Simonetti. There’s a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders. It’s not about knowing what to say or do. It’s about whether you’re willing to experience the discomfort, risk and uncertainty … of saying or doing it. Most leadership development programs teach knowledge not action. For more on this, we are joined by Peter Bregman in the flesh. Good to see you.

Peter Bregman:
Nice to see you.

Lauren Simonetti:
All right. How do we act as a leader?

Peter Bregman:
It’s a challenge because most leadership programs you go to, and they give you books and they give you binders, and they do personality assessments and they teach you everything that you need to know. I’ve been in a lot of rooms with a lot of leaders, and none of them fail because of a lack of knowledge. None of them fail….They’re all capable and they’re all knowledgeable.

When it comes to the point where they’re in a room, and there’s a challenging conversation going on, or there’s not a challenging conversation but there should be a challenging conversation, do they raise the difficult to talk about topic? Are they willing to confront someone in a way that doesn’t alienate them, but puts the issues that have to be put on the table? Are they willing to listen to critical feedback about themselves without lashing out or getting defensive? These are the things that leaders are called to do, and it’s very, very difficult for us to do them.

You could read a book or look at a book that says you should really be able to offer people direct feedback behaviorally about their behaviors and not about who they are. You look at how much that actually happens in organizations very little.

Lauren Simonetti:
Well, leaders are teachers. The teacher has to know the material, but also explain it.

Peter Bregman:
Right, and to be able to live it. Ultimately, what they say about great coaches is great coaches don’t necessarily need to be great at playing basketball, but they need to know enough about it to coach someone. That’s not true with leaders. There’s a big difference between coaches and leaders. Leaders not only have to know what to do, but they actually have to be able to do it. Have the courage to do it. A lot of what I teach when I have these leadership programs is about emotional courage because that’s the challenge. Am I willing to put my emotions on the line? Am I willing to do something that feels risky, that might make someone angry that might make me feel vulnerable. Am I willing to … go ahead and follow through with that?

Lauren Simonetti:
I know. It’s a slippery slope sometimes, but it’s a courageous one. Peter, great to see you.

Peter Bregman:
Nice to see you as well.


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  • mao malambo June 30, 2014 Reply

    True to the word about leadership. It is disheartening to sit in a meeting where managers are afraid to challenge decisions and actions. We ought to take a leaf from this learning especially of African leaders(no disrespect) but it could actually be cultural to some extent.

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