Problems with learning leadership skills only on the job
How many of the people in leadership positions over you do you think led well?
Think of all the teachers, professors, coaches, Presidents, Congress-members, and so on. I’d bet no more than a few stand out as excellent.
If your way to improve your leadership skills—presumably one of your best ways to get promoted, more responsibility, more pay, and so on—is to try to act like leaders you know, you don’t have many role models. Learning leadership skills from watching people around you is like learning a sport from neighborhood pick-up games instead of finding an effective coach with a winning team.
I think a lot of people learn the leadership equivalent of sandlot ball, never realizing their potential.
People with skill, experience, and motivation to teach and coach, putting your interest to improve first, are out there. Your bosses, managers, and so on may have some motivation to help you and your career, but most of them are busy with themselves and their careers. If you want to branch out on your own, their interests may directly conflict with yours, when you need to improve your skills the most.
If you studied and worked years to get to your job, doesn’t it seem odd that as you lead more and do your functional role less, you don’t get new training for your new, greater responsibilities? Leadership skills are different than engineering, marketing, sales, HR, or whatever function you started with. If you get promoted to lead people from departments outside your functional skills your old skills clearly become less relevant since someone from the other department could have ended up in the role. Same if you start your own organization.
I’m increasingly seeing leadership as a separate discipline to learn, mostly from considerations above, partly from seeing how well people can learn it as I coach and lead seminars.
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