Is Executive Coaching More Effective than Traditional Leadership Development Courses?
Leadership development programs have been the flavour of the month for at least a decade now; although the content hasn’t really changed with the times. Many of these leadership development training programs still teach the same concepts popular in the latter part of the twentieth-century.
This is despite the transformational changes in work, organizations, and subsequently, leadership. For instance, leaders now need to be adaptive and agile. Many of the models still being taught assume a stable and predictable workplace. The acceptance of many of these linear models has now lost their currency.
The other issue with leadership development courses is that they are normally conducted in the confines of a training room. Although there are encouraging changes afoot using technology to convey these programs. This reduces cost and increases accessibility.
The problem with this approach, however, whether done virtually or in a classroom—is that possibly only 10 per cent of the program may be applicable for each of the participants. That’s a considerable amount of time spent in classroom to pick up a few morsels of leadership wisdom. The reason for this is that these leadership development training programs are generic and follow a set curriculum.
Top Leadership Development Programs
Post-graduate programs at university are no better; sometimes worse, in terms of these issues I mentioned. Advertised MBAs and top leadership development programs at Universities are disappointing when you scratch the surface.
They continue to peddle old models and frameworks, and the content is mostly geared towards the assessment pieces. Some Universities, such as QUT and Macquarie, promote leadership as part of their competitive advantage. They are encouragingly teaching more up-to-date models such as complex adaptive leadership.
These are costly exercises, nonetheless. And I am not just referring to the fees these programs charge. The time away from work and family needs to be factored into the cost too. Spending a day in a program for leadership development is really two days, if you factor in the opportunity costs of not being able to attend to other projects and tasks while being part of the course.
What about executive coaching as a substitute? Is executive coaching more effective than traditional leadership development courses? The answer is it depends on what you are trying to achieve. If, for example, you are trying to get a group of technically-proficient leaders up to basic level of leadership literacy, I would say, no.
A program for leadership development along more traditional lines is probably the best in these circumstances. On the other hand, if you are dealing with experience and competent leaders, executive coaching may be the answer. These leaders have a frame-of-reference on leadership and could benefit from working with a coach to challenge them to take their leadership to the next level.
Top leadership development training programs often do include a component of coaching.
Executive coaching has many benefits:
- Its 100 focused on the coachee, which means they are getting value for the time they spent with their coach.
- The coachee has time to put into practice the key learnings between each coaching session.
- The coaching conversations are usually done in confidence, and this means that the coach and coachee can have free and frank deliberations that couldn’t occur in a classroom setting.
- The coachee can seek clarification and ask many questions to assist with their understanding.
- The series of coaching sessions spread the learning experience over several weeks or months and this helps to consolidate the learning and its application in the workplace.
A top leadership development program that combines a traditional development course in concert with coaching can maximise the strengths of both approaches and minimise their weaknesses. This is a popular approach used by WINNERS-at-WORK in its leadership development programs.
There are other approaches on offer too. One of the most effective and enjoyable is experiential learning approach. This involves setting up a simulation that mirrors the workplace and asking participants to complete the exercise or meet a challenge.
The real learning takes place at the end of the exercise with a debrief and reflection of the lessons learned and applied back to the world of work.