Leadership Training is an Oxymoron

confused blackboardYou can’t train someone to be a leader.

You can provide a context in which they can learn to be leaders.  That’s everywhere, every day.  People learn to lead when their butt is on the line.  They learn to lead when they clarify a vision with others and then, through trial and error, make it happen.

People don’t learn to lead in a classroom.  Too many leadership development efforts are still stuck in a classroom, trying to “train” leadership.  Guru’s sharing concepts and frameworks that, while potentially smart, never get used.  Sure, some of the ideas are good and useful , but let’s be honest; people don’t walk out of training sessions knowing how to lead—ever. You don’t learn to drive, ski, swim, bike, or golf in a classroom training setting.  Why would leadership be any different?

Give people concepts, but then get them on the court.  Believe in them, support them, and then hold them accountable.

This concept seems so obvious, and yet is still so missed by so many organizaitions still spending so much money on leadership training that doesn’t actually develop leaders.



  1. Good thoughts Doug, I agree. Experience is the best teacher.

  2. The problem with leadership training or any other training for that matter is, students leave it in the classroom.

    To get good at anything whether it’s leadership, learning a software application, or playing piano, takes practice.

    Consistent practice.

    Many come back from training and institute some of the things they learned right out of the gate. Then after a few days, or if they’re luck a few weeks, they’re back to the same behaviors and habits.

    Wax on, wax off. Every day.

    • Doug Sundheim says:

      Steve – thanks for your comment. I couldn’t agree more. Wax on, wax off, and I would also add – be crystal clear on why you want to change your behavior in the first place.

  3. Andrea Nierenberg says:

    Brief, concise and exactly to the point– well said and very true

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