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Leadership Development is Broken

Network Leader
May 2, 2023
minute read

Last month, Network Leader hosted a timely and interactive webinar entitled, “Leadership Development is Broken.” Nick Petrie and Kristin Cullen-Lester discussed recent research findings that demonstrate clearly that the best leadership programs are ones that put capable leaders in the driver’s seat of their own network development and make it a part of their everyday jobs.

Specifically, they plumbed the depths of the following aspects of leadership development to share:

  • Why traditional development programs are broken and how to embrace a new formula that focuses on the network, not the individual;
  • How new research on professional networks impacts leadership development programs and what employees, teams, and companies can do to achieve better outcomes by focusing on performance rather than growth; and
  • A real world account of one company that incorporated Network Leader’s approach and the benefits it saw.

Following are a few key takeaways from the webinar, including relevant video snippets. 

The full webinar recording is here.

The Holy Grail: Leadership Development in the Flow of Work

A variety of very large companies universally reported less-than-stellar results from their leadership development programs from largely uninterested participants. One major common deficiency: most organizations attempted to cram their development into a short space of time, approximately 20 hours a year. While these leadership development experiences may have been impactful in the short term, they were too brief to really make a long term impact. This begs the question: how can an individual leverage the remaining 2000 hours of work time better and how can learning and development leaders integrate development into the daily flow of work so growth happens almost organically?

Watch the clip here:

The Paradox of Growth

By delving deeper into this morass, Network Leaders discovered after interviewing dozens of individuals from all walks of life (professors, business executives, sports competitors, Navy Seals, elite yoga instructors, etc.) that when they sought to achieve something significant (to win an account, a tournament, etc.) they focused on performance.  When performance was the goal, growth happened organically as a key by-product both for individual performers and teams. To Network Leader, performance and growth are two sides of the same coin. Companies can develop leaders far more effectively if they focus on what individuals and teams are working on to achieve a particular outcome or goal.

Watch the clip here:

The Power of Networks

As you know, Network Leader is laser-focused on helping individuals and organizations develop and amplify their professional networks. By our definition, a core professional network includes the people you know, the people who know you, and importantly, how they know each other. Generally, there are about 15 or 20 people who are really essential to how individuals accomplish their work, to providing the key resources, and to helping them reach their work and career goals. Having an effective network is important because individuals who do are: 

  • Able to hear information earlier;
  • Take information from distinct groups with different perspectives;
  • Combine new perspectives to offer new creative insights; and 
  • Capitalize on new opportunities that others aren't aware of. 

All of these elements drive top performers to advance in their careers and to be more agile.

Watch the clip here:

Incorporating Leadership Development

Fortunately, incorporating Network Leader into current leadership development initiatives and programs can be seamless, either as an integral part of or as a standalone element. Depending on their particular needs, organizations are using Network Leader for the following:

  • Key talent retention
  • Belonging, diversity and inclusion
  • Well-being
  • Change and innovation
  • Leadership effectiveness

Watch the clip here:

Past is not Always Prologue

“What’s past is prologue” may have been true for Shakespeare, but it’s not necessarily the case when thinking about how an individual’s core network of 15 people from the past will continue to be the core 15 people who will be instrumental in helping that individual flourish in the future. One may lead to the other, but not always. Networks were built for the past, not the future. Thus, it’s important to show employees exactly how to develop networks with intention and purpose for their current and potentially future roles that are open, diverse, deep, and resource-rich.

Watch the clip here:

Network Development is Never Done

Developing professional networks is not a one and done initiative. It requires constant attention and frequent check-ins. Just as a job develops over time along with responsibilities and focus, networks must be constantly tended to like a garden or a body. For those individuals who focused on performance challenges in the flow of work, the research indicates that they were able to open up their networks between 17 and 40% on average and importantly they were able to develop more cross boundary ties.

Watch the clip here:

Development in the Flow of Work

Leadership development has often been approached in terms of transactional events. An individual goes to a program and gains knowledge and then returns to work. That knowledge may or may not be implemented in their every day work environment. While this may be effective, Network Leader believes that it can be improved greatly by finding ways during the remaining 2000 hours of work time to help them develop the sorts of experiences they need to have in order to grow and by teaching them to think about how they can leverage their networks in order to perform better and achieve success.

Watch the clip here:

Based on the feedback from attendees, this webinar was a fascinating discussion filled with important insights and exchanges. You can watch the full webinar here

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