Where’s the love?

As leadership trainers, we often ask ourselves this question when instructing or coaching leaders who carry an air of pessimism into the classroom. The proverbial thrill is gone, and the enthusiasm is simmering. Can training change this attitude? Can we give leaders a shot of adrenaline in their passion to lead others through trying times?

As L&D professionals, we try to build a bridge from the interpersonal to the technical. It’s the core of what we do. We enhance this basic model by linking together the individual strengths, desires and goals of leaders. We work to encourage their success and align their unique attributes to the mission. It’s a web of strategy and creative thinking, because we all know there’s no-one-size fits all formula for a great leader. Every organizational culture is different, and, therefore, the leaders needed to drive that culture are different in skill, leadership style and approach to solving complex problems.

From the training perspective, then, the first step is to find out the leaders’ purpose. What is the basis of their passion? We all have emotional, social and mental drivers. These drivers make us excited about new projects, feed feelings of fulfillment and gratitude, or simply give us enthusiasm to continue doing the work we are tasked to do. As a trainer working with executives, it’s important to begin with understanding their passion and purpose. Where is the love?

Once we know what drives our leaders, we must filter in their personal goals. We’ve all known someone who was great at their work, maybe even gave the office environment a morale boost but, ultimately, left the job. Whether they left to find another job in their field or for a completely different role, the fact that we didn’t retain that leader is critical. We lose their expertise, guidance and knowledge and create instability in the remaining workforce.

Without seeing the results of an exit survey, we can make a few assumptions about why a leader leaves. If their work ethic, leadership skills and technical ability were high, but their purpose and personal goals didn’t align with the organization or their role, it create a disconnect. Being a great leader does not mean you are happy with where you lead or whom you lead. Learning what a leader needs and wants before prescribing them a training plan is detrimental to the leadership development process. Learn their passion and purpose first. Then, help them get there.

How do passion, purpose and personal goals fit into or change the leadership culture? The answer is a unique cocktail blended for an individual based on his or her perceptions of self and the work environment. As learning and development professionals, we are often asked to be coaches, mentors, trainers, career strategists … and the list goes on. If we look deeper, ask pertinent questions and guide careers instead of using a standard formula for all leaders, we may find the answers are there within the very leaders we hope to develop.

The next time you step into a room full of anxious or hesitant leaders, your first training inquiry should be … Where is the love?