Many companies use the “dirty fish tank” method of leadership development, without even realizing it. Picture a dirty fish tank, with several despondent fish floating in its scum-filled water. The tank cleaner comes, removes one of the fish, scrubs the fish clean, and dumps it back into the filthy tank. Clearly, this is not an effective means of restoring the tank, so why would companies think leadership development methods similar to this method of tank cleaning would work? Extracting leaders from toxic environments, “cleaning” them through external training and development programs, and plopping them back into their previous environments without addressing any of the organization's systemic problems is a surefire way to waste resources. In fact, in the United States alone, it's estimated that over $10 billion a year is wasted on ineffective leadership programs. What’s needed is a more holistic approach that addresses not only changes needed in leaders’ attitudes and methods but culture-wide issues that might be harder to address. By addressing leadership and culture at the same time, companies can ensure they are not wasting valuable resourses on ineffective methods.
Why Leadership Development Is (Fish) Tanking