Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail

windup-execThe topic in the executive committee meeting turned to Europe. The technology company, Alentix*, was doing well and growing annually at the rate of about 15 percent. But its European division was struggling. It had been five years since the region turned a profit.

Yet no one had addressed that issue. Jean, the head of the Europe office, had been with the company longer than anyone else around the table — he had strong ties with the board – and the topic seemed untouchable.

This time looked to be no different. When Jean said he was on top of things, no one challenged him. I looked around the room at the silent senior leadership of Alentix, all of whom had privately complained to me about Jean’s performance in recent weeks. I suggested we take a 15-minute break.

Every one of these leaders was smart, knowledgeable and capable. They’d all read innumerable books on leadership, taken leadership skills assessments and attended multiple training programs – including executive leadership programs at top business schools. They knew as much as anyone about leadership.

So why weren’t they leading?

The answer is deceptively simple: There is a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders.

I have never seen a leader fail because he or she didn’t know enough about leadership. In fact, I can’t remember ever meeting a leader who didn’t know enough about leadership.

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Peter Bregman

Peter Bregman

Peter Bregman helps CEOs and their leadership teams break down silos and tackle their most important priorities together. He teaches courageous leadership in an annual Leadership Week. He is the author, most recently, of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, a Wall Street Journal best seller, winner of the Gold Medal from the Axiom Business Book awards, named the best business book of the year on NPR, and selected by Publisher's Weekly and the New York Post as a top 10 business book. He is also the author of Point B: A Short Guide to Leading a Big Change and co-author of five other books. Featured on PBS, ABC and CNN, Peter is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, National Public Radio (NPR), Psychology Today, and CNN as well as a weekly commentator on Fox Business News. Get notified when he writes a new article.

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