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Leadership is about what you do, not what you’re called

Written by Neela B

According to a report by McKinsey from 2014, US companies were spending almost $14 billion a year on leadership development back then. It’s unlikely to have declined. And it’s a similar picture, relatively speaking, across the developed world. And yet, as the report also notes: “Only 7 percent of senior managers polled by a UK business school think that their companies develop global leaders effectively.”

So the question has to be asked. Why are businesses spending so much money and apparently getting so little back for it? Could it be because they’ve lost sight of what ‘leadership’ really means?

Randy Pennington, writing for the Huff Post, observed: “Leadership is a matter of performance not position”. As he points out, inspiring others through the way you behave or the way you react to situations are good examples of leadership, regardless of what your job title might be.

In other words, real leadership does not derive from an abstract set of academic dicta.

As Kathleen Schafer, another contributor to Huff Post, wrote recently: “The mistake most companies make is in thinking leadership can be an “add-on.” The truth is, leadership must be cultivated. Each person has a unique combination of talents, strengths and skills that when coupled with their passion becomes their greatest asset.”

So maybe that’s why businesses are not getting much of a return on the billions they invest in leadership training. They’ve lost sight of the fact that leadership is fundamentally about people. And what makes you a truly successful leader is learning to understand yourself and to understand others.

About the author

Neela B