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A new way to develop leaders

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Management Training

Much of the conventional wisdom regarding leadership development is wrong, says Morgan W. McCall Jr., author of High Flyers: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders (Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1998). He argues that many well-intentioned managers err in staging survival-of-the-fittest situations to identify leaders.

McCall, a management professor, pierces three myths of leadership training:

1. Learning from experience is automatic. McCall challenges the notion that a manager can engineer an employee’s experiences so that the “student” always learns the right lessons. It’s not enough just to set the stage and then step back. Individuals may draw mistaken conclusions from their experiences unless a mentor guides them with questions and follow-up.

2. It pays to “model” the competencies of superior employees. McCall labels this the “end-point fallacy.” “The assumption is that these end-state qualities can be found in some miniature form in people with potential,” he writes. He claims that there are no grounds for believing that workers necessarily possess even some of the most desired characteristics in their latent form. He argues that it’s smarter to give individuals a range of valuable experience and coach them to produce the results you seek.

3. Focus on teaching what’s working now. McCall doesn’t believe it’s possible to cultivate leaders by letting them grapple with today’s challenges. “Development is about the future, not about the past or even the present,” he writes. That means plotting long-term strategic plans and directing employees’ attention to anticipating change.

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