Professional Partner Content

Why Self-Directed Leadership Development Can’t Be Your Only Bag of Tricks

Have you given your leaders self-directed leadership training as part of their development? I bet your answer is yes. And that’s a great answer because self-directed learning should be part of your company’s leadership development approach.

Why? Leaders are busy. They don’t have much time to spend on development, so they want the time they do spend to be meaningful. Learning they can do on their own puts them in the driver’s seat. It gives them greater control over their professional development. It also allows their learning to be more personalized to the learning styles they like.

But that doesn’t mean all leadership training should be self-directed. You shouldn’t set leaders loose with a library of learning content and hope for the best. This approach leaves your leadership training to chance.

The Risks of Self-Directed Leadership Development

Using a “build it and they will come” approach for development only works if leaders participate. What if only 35 percent take part? Even worse, what if no one participates? A 10-minute learning seems easier to “skip” than a more formal learning engagement.

Perhaps some leaders browse your learning library and find five possible development models. They each choose a different model than their peers. And their peers choose a different model than their managers. The result? Everyone is talking a different leadership language. No one is on the same page. There’s no accountability. And keeping track of everyone’s development goals? The inconsistency makes it difficult—if not impossible.

If your leaders don’t have the leadership skills to succeed, their execution will suffer. Their teams will suffer. And your bottom line will suffer. So, what kinds of development do your leaders need to change their behavior and make them better?

One format does not fit all. That’s why learners prefer blended learning journeys built just for them that balance self-directed learning with formal, purposeful development. According to our Global Leadership Forecast research, leaders’ preferred style of learning is personalized development experiences.

But what else do leaders need to develop? They need lots of opportunities to practice new skills. They also need to know how their new skills will help them, their teams, and your company succeed.

3 Reasons Your Leaders Need Purposeful Development

There are reasons why self-directed learning shouldn’t be your only bag of tricks when it comes to development. Here’s why your leaders need more than self-directed learning to be their best:

Leadership skills don’t come naturally.
The debate about whether leadership skills can be developed is over. Anyone can develop leadership skills. Yes, it’s true that some people have natural tendencies toward key leadership skills. But it’s also true that no one is born knowing how to lead. We all need opportunities for focused and deliberate development and real-life practice.

New behaviors and habits are developed over time.
Learning new behaviors or changing old habits takes time. People can’t develop leadership capabilities from a single course. Effective leadership development programs involve a series of experiences and reinforcement activities over a period of time.

Core skills remain relevant.
It is impossible to prepare your leaders for every single situation and challenge they will confront. But you can give them a core set of skills that will improve their impact across leadership situations and challenges. These evergreen skills will serve leaders through all stages of their careers and prepare them with the foundations to manage multiple political, environmental, and organizational changes.

Learn more in DDI’s blog.

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