Developing Leaders From a Distance

Leadership Workshops Evolve From the Classroom

It’s interesting how change is sometimes thrust upon us. Innovation flourishes when disruption forces us to abandon the status quo and approach leader development without the quintessential leadership workshop. It had been widely accepted that leader skills require full-contact engagement. After all, leaders interact with people constantly. So, it follows logically that we would design leader development with a lot of people interaction… like in a workshop.

But things sure have changed! I don’t imagine there will be a lot of demand for trust falls or team Lego building exercises in the near future. And I suspect that once we re-engineer leader development for the times we live in today, we won’t have much appetite to return to the past.

Let’s face it. It was often inconvenient to remove a leader from circulation for days at a time to attend a development program. And mobile technology ensured those leaders were constantly distracted by communication from the organization as you tried to sequester them so they could be immersed in well-designed workshop interactions. Leaders are simply too valuable for most organizations to take offline for long periods of time. But most of us dug in our heels and tried to make the best of it. That was how leadership development was done… and everyone accepted it.

A New Era

The way I see it, things are changing for the better. What’s now emerging is a new approach to develop leaders from a distance. Future leaders will learn how to lead, not from instructor-led workshops, but in smaller segments and from multiple sources. Leadership development will involve sharing more videos, participating in more (and shorter) virtual sessions, and reading more books and articles. None of this will be done randomly and without guidance. It will be done intentionally and with thoughtful curation and design.

We’re already engaged in the future at Innovative Learning Group and are actively helping our clients define the new learning path for leaders. This new approach is definitely part of the trend towards blended learning. However, the notion of blended learning used to imply adding some elements to supplement a classroom learning experience. The blend we recently designed for a large insurance client included everything except the classroom. Instead, we curated a set of highly focused videos, articles, book summaries, and e-learning subscription material, and then supported it with several virtual discussions to make sure it was fully applied.

No Looking Back

If we step back and take a longer view, this is an opportunity to take a giant leap forward instead of finding a temporary solution. A new approach can be more effective than the workshop-focused programs of the past and can become the future model, even beyond the pandemic of 2020. One day, we may look back fondly on the good times we used to have sitting around a table with others in the same room. What a quaint thing it will seem.

2 Responses

  1. Kelly Nori

    Interesting perspective, Jim. I bet you’re right, we’ll someday tell stories of ‘the olden days’ when we sat in conference rooms together in a day long training. We’ll need to figure out how to continue some of those in person perks like bagels and donuts!

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