Disrupting Leadership Training – Why Leadership should be for the many, not the few.

Leadership Development

There are typically three overlapping models that tend to get used by businesses for leadership training and development.

  1. The career stage model – Businesses invest in an individual (or individuals) at a particular stage of their career, often later into their career when significant experience has been gained and sometimes associated with a promotion to a more senior level of their career
  2. The talent identification model – Businesses spot particular talents within an individual (or individuals) and invest to develop them as a potential leader.
  3. The buy it in model – Businesses look outside themselves for leadership and recruit talent externally.

Here at Cognomie we don’t think this represents the best way to structure Leadership Development. We believe in personal leadership and self leadership as a starting point. We believe that anyone, wherever they are within an organisation is a leader who can have vision, can inspire, motivate and build trust to move the organisation forward.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Navio Kwok and Winny Shen, refer to “the leadership development paradox” reflecting on how the traditional approach means that “the individuals who receive the most development are also the ones who arguably need it the least”.

We don’t necessarily agree that anyone needs it “the least”. Transformational Coaching helps anyone to develop their capabilities to lead and transform organisations. What we do agree with is that Leadership Development benefits a far wider range of people than is currently the case, and that this in turn has a powerfully transforming effect on the organisation.

The primary reason for this is that it increases the available pool of potential leaders. If we see leadership as something more akin to ‘natural progression’ where Leadership Development is simply ‘the icing on the cake’, the potential number of people who may be able to play a role in sustaining and transforming the organisation is relatively few.

If instead we see leadership as a potential development opportunity, something that can help close the gap between where people are now, and where they could be, then the potential pool of Leaders is much larger. This significantly reduces the need to resort to the 3rd option of “buying in” leadership which often requires a high level of risk around whether or not the external leader can gain a deep enough understanding of company culture.

All this can have a wider impact.

Helping more people to develop as leaders can be a unifying force for the culture of the organisation. Many organisations talk about cultural values like inclusivity and involvement but then reward a relatively small group of people with leadership roles. This can be divisive and create an us and them mentality.

And more than just a mentality it can in fact create a culture where some people get what transformative leadership means and some people, well, don’t. This actually makes it harder for the individuals who are bestowed with the title of leader, to actually lead.

Writing in her book ‘ Flywheel: Transformational Leadership Coaching for Sustainable Change’, Elle Allison-Napolitano encourages us to think of Leadership less as “captaincy” of an organisation and more as a person simply driven by purpose and the ability to influence and create change.

“Change agents, regardless of their formal position, create new realities within their organization and inspire others to follow”

Imagine the power of an organisation where the ideas and principles of transformational leadership are held by the many, not just the few. For us this involves a shift from leadership being one part of an organisation, the bridge or the control room or the helm of the ship to a fully empowered ‘leading organisation’. One where more and more people understand their own power to change and develop their abilities to work with and inspire others and create a unified sense of purpose.





by | 2 Feb 2022

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