In a world where budgets are tight and competition is fierce, return on investment (ROI) is more important than ever before. The common practice of most companies today is to bring in a trainer for a one- or two-day session. These quick training sessions usually consist of little or no discussion or customization to the people in the room and are, instead, filled with cookie-cutter lectures on basic leadership principles and ideas found in any business book, article or video.

Clearly, companies believe that leadership development is important. In 2018, organizations spent $3.4 billion was spent on leadership development alone and $366.2 billion on training overall. The industry is growing, but results are not. Only 10% of CEOs believe current leadership development initiatives at their organizations have a clear impact on their business, and only 19% of business managers view leadership development programs as relevant to the issues they face.

These statistics should be alarming. The fact is, leadership development coaches and trainers are failing the people they are hired to serve. Lectures, old styles of communicating and anecdotes do not work. Learners lose interest quickly. When was the last time you wanted to sit and listen to someone ramble on for over four hours about basic concepts and their own personal experiences that may not apply to you? Will we continue to point the finger and play the blame game, or will we look ourselves in the mirror and realize our training methods are the real problem?

In 2015, Brandon Hall Group released a shocking study regarding leadership development. Among the findings:

  • 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every day.
  • By 2020, 48% of the workforce will be millennials.
  • Sixty-seven percent of millennials are looking for a new job.
  • Of the millennials who stay at their organizations, 91% plan to do so for fewer than three years.
  • Eighty-four percent of organizations anticipate a shortfall of leaders in the next five years.

In addition:

  • Over half (63%) “of millennials feel their employers are not fully developing their leadership skills” (Human Resources Professionals Association).
  • Over half (56%) of business leaders say their organizations cannot meet leadership needs (Deloitte).
  • Over three-fourths (77%) of organizations have a leadership gap (Brandon Hall Group).

These statistics reveal that:

  • New leaders want development.
  • Companies are willing to invest in leadership development.
  • CEOs are not satisfied with the ROI they are currently seeing from leadership training.
  • This issue is not going away anytime soon.
  • It is time to change.

Filling this leadership gap is where you come in. As a learning and development (L&D) professional, you have signed on to change companies and, ultimately, people’s lives. You have answered the call to be a part of results that are bigger than yourself. This is no small task. This is not simply another job; it is a calling. If you are not in L&D to help others and change lives, then this article (and probably this industry) is not for you.

What is leadership today? In the past, a position or a title was the prerequisite of becoming a leader, but that is not the case today.

Leaders are constant learners. According to John F. Kennedy, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Leaders gain influence naturally, through their qualities, not their position. As Ken Blanchard said, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”

Leaders inspire others to achieve their potential. According to Ronald Reagan, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

In short, leaders inspire a life change, not simply an emotional response. Yes, offsite events are great. Consultants are great. Catchy phrases help us remember lessons learned. But, these one-day events do not inspire lifestyle change, and they become nothing more than an emotional pep rally. If the key to developing leaders is inspiring life change, then our processes must reflect that goal.

To change lives and develop leaders, we must assist the companies we work with not as consultants, not as experts, not as coaches, but as servants. We do not need to have all the answers, we do not need to have catchy sayings, we do not need to be dressed in the finest suits with the best haircut … we simply need the right attitude.

Make sure the people you’re serving hear the message, not the messenger. Approach every meeting or every training session with the intention of helping every single person in that room realize his or her full potential by whatever means necessary.

A colleague of mine once said, “The best review you can get in this industry is one that never mentions your name.” By setting aside your pride and serving your clients (whether they’re internal to your organization or the companies that have hired you as a consultant or trainer), you can develop plans of action that allow them to take control of every aspect of their jobs and their lives.

Instead of lecturing, providing answers, and building your own egos up for a day or two, you’ll formulate messages that are truly helpful to the people who have been entrusted to you. Instead of planning your time to say everything you want to say and moving on to the next client, you’ll plan your time to make sure you help every person, that every person has a plan in place to take back to the job and that every person experiences tangible results.

This process will take more time, effort and practice than old-fashioned one-day training seminars. However, it is completely worth it. When you approach leadership development in this way, a few things happen:

  • The learners take control of their own lives.
  • The learners can continue making progress toward their goals without you.
  • Real, tangible plans and results have occurred, which you can bring to decision-makers to show the ROI of leadership training.

Leadership development is on the rise, and more people believe that they can make an impact. Will you put aside the easy practice of self-boosting seminars to become a servant who achieves life-changing results for your learners?

The choice is yours.