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Why coaching and developing leaders is better than training them


There are so many different approaches to building better leaders, but which one is the best? The truth is that no one method of training will fit all leaders – many people are talented at leading with authority and getting the best out of others, but each individual has an approach that’s tailored to their own experiences in order to achieve the most effective results.

For this reason, a coaching and development approach to upskilling leaders is preferable to a one-fits-all style training programme. Mike Myatt, author of “Hacking Leadership” and “Leadership Matters,” explains that leadership training programmes often fail because they assume that certain systems, processes and techniques are the right way to do things. In fact, we should be focusing on coaching leaders, developing their own unique approaches.

“Training is something leaders dread and will try and avoid, whereas they will embrace and look forward to development,” says Myatt. “Development is nuanced, contextual, collaborative, fluid, and above all else, actionable.”

In his Forbes article The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails, Myatt goes on to explain numerous differences between training and development. We have expanded on some of the key differences below – if you have any more to add, be sure to tweet us @insight_hrc.

Training focuses on technique/content/curriculum – Development focuses on people

While training depends on a series of pre-set lessons and specific ways to do things, development places the focus on the individual and explores how they can improve on specific aspects of their personality to increase the effectiveness of their leadership. In other words, development is a more tailored approach than training, optimised to the person who is undergoing personal growth.

Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future

Because development is an ongoing process, it means gradual and consistent improvement. This is different to training, which expects trainees to quickly memorise a number of methods in the present and commit them to memory, even if they do not match up with their own personal and effective approaches to leadership. This can lead to the lessons learned being rejected in favour of old tried and tested methods, with no progress made.

Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person

Training does not recognise that each individual is a different person with different personal attributes. Instead, it presumes that the role of the leader is a universal and unchanging concept, constructing a training regime around an intangible, theoretical person. Coaching and development, on the other hand, are about spotting real patterns in an individual’s leadership approach and taking them in new, positive directions that the leader is comfortable pursuing, meaning that they will be more likely to take the things they have learned and practiced into account for years to come.

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