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Leaders Must Be Trained to Lead

Leaders Must Be Trained to Lead

Recently I was speaking to a friend of mine who was the Vice-President for Marketing of a large national retail enterprise. I asked him what he saw as the biggest challenge mid-level managers struggled with. His answer, after I gave it some thought, was really no surprise. He said one of the biggest challenges mid-level managers struggle with was the transition of moving from managing to leading.

There certainly is a difference between managing and leading, and business literature abounds with nifty sayings about the difference. Quotes like, “managers manage things, leaders lead people” and “a manager says go while a leader says let’s go”, or “managers read reports, leaders read people.”

The transition from being a manager to a leader is a big one, and many times being promoted from becoming a manager to a leader comes with zero leadership training. Thus, the need for leadership training on a continual basis. It is kind of like a business investing in a fitness center, so the employees have a resource to stay physically fit. Companies must also invest in a leadership development program so leaders develop to be stronger leaders.

The truth is, leaders must be trained to lead.

Fortune 100 Example

I conducted a leadership assessment at a manufacturing plant that was operated by a Fortune 100 company. Hourly employees were being promoted into supervisory and leadership positions without the benefit of leadership training. The result was poor leadership which resulted in poor morale, perception of favoritism and retaliation, a general lack of trust, and concerns for enforcing workplace safety standards. The primary reason employees did not leave the company in large numbers is because the pay outpaced competitors in the area. Employees stayed because of the pay but the work environment was miserable, and this no doubt affected the health and well-being of employees and the quality of the product being produced.

Unfortunately, from my experience working in industry, the failure to provide leadership training is more common than it is an anomaly. Most of these companies would never consider assigning a worker to a piece of equipment they were not qualified to operate. For example, forklift operators need to be trained and licensed on a forklift before they are assigned that position. However, the same company, often, will place someone with technical skills into a leadership position without leadership training. The results are dramatic when one considers that people are really the most important resource in any organization, and when people are led poorly, they generally perform poorly.

The answer is sustainable leadership development programs. People should be trained in basic leadership principles before being placed in leadership positions. This leadership training should then be sustained for those who remain in a leadership role. A mentorship program is also a valuable way to ensure leaders continue to develop. Potentially, a company could partner with another company in a similar industry, so the mentors are not too close to the situation at hand. This is very effective.

It is not a coincidence that companies that invest in sustainable and long-term leadership development programs have greater profitability, a more positive workplace environment, and healthier and more positive employees. Interestingly, customer service ratings are also higher. When employees are treated well in the workplace, those same employees then tend to treat customers well. When customer service is good, good profits tend to follow. There are many sound reasons for companies to invest in leader development.

When in doubt, Leaders Must Be Trained to Lead. And don’t be shy to reach out to me to discuss.

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