The assumption by modern leadership development: there is a single, one-size-fits-all set of skills for leadership. One style to learn, no matter the situation, that will apply to everyone taking the course.
There is not one perfect 'type' of leader.
Modern leadership development is detached from practical context
Let me start by saying I'm not attacking the idea of categorising leadership 'styles'. Just the assumption that one category is ideal at all times.
Transformational. Transactional. Authoritarian. Democratic. A good leader will fly through many 'styles' of leadership in a single day, let alone in their career. But they will be 'developed' towards one set of tools, an idealised form of leadership, and told to avoid the others despite all styles having their uses.
Remember the old standby 'Managers vs Leaders'? A stitched-together zombie of clichés that should have been buried and forgotten years ago.
Avoid being 'the manager', the stuffy bureaucrat. Be 'the leader', the inspiring visionary. But that doesn't apply to how the real world works. Management and leadership are different modes of the same people.
If today's Leadership Development courses are detached from the reality their leaders are facing, how can they hope to succeed? They can only hope to create Leaders that are also detached, the type who declare they are vision-focused and ‘don’t do detail’, as if detail is something you can leave to lower life-forms.
No matter how brilliant the leader, they are not perfect for every situation
Want to know a secret? So, there is no leadership style that can do it all. Because one leader cannot do it all. Your leaders need to know that.
If you are aware that your 'style' is not suited to that day's task, that month's project, that year's change goals, you will be open to accept the expertise of those who are. That's where a collaborative leadership development community soars.
In the late C.K. Prahalad’s office was a painting of a pack of wolves. ‘With wolves, solidarity is first,’ said Prahalad. ‘But when they hunt, they change roles. The implicit hierarchy depends on who does what.’
The same should be of leadership in an organisation; take turns. Let those who know that situation lead through it.
At companies such as Morning Star, the world’s leading tomato processor, the leader – of a project or a problem – is the person most able to come up with the best solution on that day. The best idea leads. - Margaret Heffernan, Beyond Measure
Leadership emerges from all levels of the organisation. The communities we run don't champion one core leadership style, but look to the challenges being faced, and then find the wisdom and leadership of those around them who have dealt with said challenges.
The right people and the right answers emerge organically. And that learning is shared, so that it is practical and useful for everyone who needs it. Leadership Development that understands context.