The Future of Leadership Training: Authentic Experience

The Future of Leadership Training Program: Authentic Experience
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Since the creation of PowerPoint, trainers in companies across the globe have effectively “trained” their students (how) to sleep. A simple search on SlideShare yields over 900,000 presentations on leadership training. Take a moment to think about the last PowerPoint presentation that has transformed your life…. (Don’t worry, I’ll sit here and wait!).

boring power point leadership training program

Powerful experiences don’t come from Powerpoint, they come from human creation. They come from a place of vulnerability, authenticity and relationship. Leadership training programs that come from a place of vulnerability, authenticity and relationship deliver transformational change. The future of leadership training creates this experience, the authentic experience and focuses on learning effectively through doing.

In the mid 2000’s, trainers began developing combinations of discussion, reading, lectures, and writing. Then, online leadership classes added another element that makes leadership training impersonal. Is reading, writing, lectures and online discussions the right way to fully learn anything?

First we must define what we mean by learning. Do you want your employees to be able to KNOW something that they didn’t know before?  Or do you want them to be able to DO something they weren’t able to DO before? Yes, thought so. Learning is about DOing.

Everyone knows that the most impactful way of learning is to learn by doing; approximately two-thirds of adults typically retain when they learn by doing. Just 10 percent of adults retain what they “learn” in a lecture. So how come today, so many leadership training programs depend on PowerPoint as their sole model for training? I don’t really know. PowerPoint was meant to enhance a training, not BE the training. The content on presentations although often nicely designed and filled with “fun facts,” lacks the “authentic experience” of doing..

The youngest Baby Boomer leaders are hitting their 60s, and simple demographics proves the need to replace the exodus of these aging leaders will accelerate rapidly over the next four to six years. Executives see the need for leadership training, yet many programs that are available fail to deliver. Why is this?

The future of leadership training is individualized, hands-on, experiential, enticing, and engaging. Younger generations can sniff out inauthenticity like drug-sniffing dogs. They value about both authenticity and experience and that is what we need to give them. If we don’t listen to what they want in leadership training programs, we are doing a huge disservice to our future leaders.

Some leadership training programs are on their way to this focus. A 2018 survey conducted by Wilson Learning Worldwide shows 60% of organizations are now relying on interviews and a needs analysis to identify the specific leadership development each individual leader is needing.” But what about the other 40% of organizations? And a needs analysis is only the beginning of the creation of the leadership training program. The individualization must and focus on the authentic experience must be consistent throughout the entire program. When you find a leadership training company that focuses on individual needs and engagement throughout the program, not only will you get more effective managers, but you will get an incredible ripple effect throughout your company. Your managers will learn by doing, and then train others by having them DO, vs. “learn.”

4 Factors in Failing Leadership Training ProgramsFacotrs in failing leadership training programs

They Fail to Deal with the Inevitable

The greatest failure of many “leadership” training programs is that they fail to deal with the inevitable.  The inevitable is that your employees WILL make promises that they sincerely want to make and will then BREAK them.  Unless your team engages in learning how to deal with broken promises, your team will not have the skills necessary to take on huge projects. The broken promises then lead to surprise. These types of surprises not only cost a lot of money, they create cultures that don’t know how to deal with the truth.

They Fail to Apply Context

Many leadership training programs are so general, that they tend to overlook context of the specific organization they are training. These “Do this, don’t do that” programs make it extremely difficult for leaders to take what they are learning and specifically turn around and apply it to their teams with ease. By focusing on context, leaders can quickly apply competencies they are learning to leading their teams. Insights from McKinsey & Company’s research has discovered that when leadership development programs identify a small number of capabilities, such as coaching skills, or higher quality decision making, the outcomes of those programs are much better.

They Fail to Address Mindset

Many leadership training programs fail to develop a high-performance organization because they fail to transform the way team members think and act. How a team thinks and acts impacts the team’s ability to use language the right way that creates the right actions. Learning the right language helps team collaborate, build relationships and trust, innovate, and align/manage the commitments necessary to achieve breakthrough results. Leadership training programs that don’t focus on mindset lack effectiveness. 

They Fail to Care about an Authentic Experience

You know that feeling when something just doesn’t light your fire… You want to be excited about being a good leader, but that perky speaker over there is just trying to make boring content lively and engaging. The problem isn’t her, it’s the content! Leadership training programs have to be able create the content that speaks straight your soul, to light a fire within you, and put you through an authentic experience that helps you grow as a leader.

The greatest part is that once you know about these failures, you can address them and look for them in your training programs or when you are looking for training programs.

The Future of Leadership Training: Authentic ExperienceLeadership Training Program: Authentic Experience

The most important asset of an effective leadership training is a focus on delivering an authentic experience. Too many leadership training companies have created cookie cutter programs that fail to deliver a truly personalized experience that creates leaders hungry to develop and master the skills they need for future leadership positions. The future of leadership training steers away from PowerPoints with terrible context and focuses more on delivering an authentic experience. This authentic experience first focuses inwardly, on what the leaders truly care about in life, and re-lights a spark of passion that the leaders need to grow and develop. After leaders are deeply engaged in living in their cares, they are better engaged in their own personal leadership development. Then these new programs focus on a personalized, authentic experience through practicing improv, game-based training, and personal development.

Practicing Conversations through Improv

Gone are the days of “say this, don’t say that” learning approach to becoming a stronger leader. In order to have authentic conversations, conversations for action and fierce conversations leaders have to practice in real life. Future-focused leadership training programs involve practicing tough conversations first before they take place in real life. Facilitators coach them through where they are getting stuck, and support them through the hardest of conversations. This is done in effective and personalized training programs through improv. Practicing conversations through improv prepares your leaders to be ready to have any conversation, no matter how uncomfortable. PowerPoint training can create examples of conversations, but learning to have these conversations in real life is invaluable.

Game-Based Leadership Training

Game-based learning is a powerful tool for the future of leadership training. Game based learning can help leaders apply specific lessons very quickly and effectively if the game is formulated for the purpose of learning and leadership. Games like FreshBiz are crucial in focusing on each individuals learning experience. The FreshBiz game  addresses important lessons that are crucial to creating innovation and cannot be won unless every team member collaborates. As individuals play the game, facilitators get an inside look into team dynamics, and are able to facilitate an individualized learning experience based on the game.

Personal Development

Leadership development is a personal experience. To develop as a leader, one must be personally in touch with their purpose, and with what they care about. When leaders get to this level, and then encourage every single person on their team to develop personally they are creating an unbeatable force in their company. This is the Golden Ticket for high performing organizations. In my experience, organizations that commit time to devoting to personal development as a team, are organizations that have the high performing teams.

The future of leadership training focuses on an individualized, authentic experience, that is enticing, and engaging. Programs that deliver a truly authentic experience will keep up with the rapid need for the effective and impactful leaders that will be needed as we make this transition in the next four to six years. How is your company delivering this type of training?

Learn more about our leadership training program here.


2018 LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT SURVEY: ARE YOUR NEXT-GEN LEADERS ON TRACK? By Michael Leimbach, Ph.D., Vice President, Global Research and Development, Wilson Learning Worldwide. Training Magazine.

Why leadership-development programs fail. By Pierre Gurdjian, Thomas Halbeisen, and Kevin Lane. McKinsey Quarterly, January 2014


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