Leadership Development or Leadership Training

Conversations can take on a life of their own and become an adventure of discovery – when given the freedom and space to do so.

This happened when Tommy Heffernan and I got together for his Aginspire series.


As both of us are Nuffield Scholars – we found ourselves speaking about the field of leadership development. It came up that the field may be over attending to leadership and under attending to development. What often passes for leadership development would be more accurately described as leadership training or leadership learning.

There is a difference. To take a computing analogy – true leadership development is about transforming the operating system itself and not just your fund of knowledge or the range of behaviours you can apply to a situation.

In attending to leadership – without attending to development – then your leadership pathway will always be directed to the plan or agenda that you have. It will not be about the plan or the agenda that ‘has you’. In not seeing the plan or agenda that has you – your capacity for change is inherently restricted.

The language of leadership growth and development is widespread. However the actual practice tends to be grounded in a transmission model of learning (rather than a transformational model) – from one person (typically an expert) to the learner.

The expectation is that the learner will add more to his mind. However, the world we live  and the challenges it presents requires that our minds be reconstructed.

Leadership development programs need to be more outcome driven (as opposed to curriculum driven) and infused into the meat and muscle of the way work gets done on the job each week.

Read more about learning mindsets for the 2020s.

If these ideas inspire you – contact me for a chat.

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