The Missing Half of Leadership Training

Skillset Development versus Mindset Development

It is unsettling to me that companies are still looking to capture the perfect leadership competency model. The expectation is that the right skills can be developed for the right situation. Many people are operating under the belief that the right skills help leaders execute the plan. But, there are contradictions for every situation. A move that was logical yesterday, might be illogical today as a result of rapid change. Consistent business practices are only valuable in a consistent business climate, which is virtually nonexistent today.

For today’s leaders, mindset development must come before skill-set development. For instance, it is hard to become a better listener without developing curiosity first. Learning to look people in the eye, fight distractions, and ask appropriate questions are important, but they are simply mechanical skills. Being open to new ideas and processes, and remaining inclusive of others lets you really hear what’s being said – and put it to good use. This is what I mean by mindset. Mechanics can be applied and developed universally. Mindset is individual. Mindset is the true separator of talent, not technique.

Our leaders do not know how to manage the paradox between the need to be strong-willed and sensitive to the needs of the team. They struggle with balancing command and control and remaining collaborative. They struggle balancing between having the right answers and forming the right questions. Today’s leaders do not know how to manage the paradox that exists in protecting organizational heritage and tenets while driving change, or making the tough call while trying to create an inclusive working environment.

Leadership development must look beyond simple skill-set development and focus more on helping leaders navigate the paradoxes by helping them form the proper leadership mindset.

10 ways to know if you’re teaching mindset in your organization:

  1. Are you teaching mechanics or principles? Teaching mindset is principle based. If you understand the principles, you’ll embrace the mechanics.
  2. Are judgment and paradox involved in what’s being taught? Teaching mindset prioritizes judgment and introduces paradox. Judgment helps leaders navigate through change and develop adaptability.
  3. Are debate and collaboration part of the learning process? Teaching mindset opens up valuable debate. Diverse opinions matter for teaching mindset.
  4. Does your teaching emphasize compliance or progress – acknowledging that these aren’t mutually exclusive? Teaching mindset will emphasize progress as the priority. Progress is the reason for compliance, but progress sometimes requires a leader to improvise.
  5. Is there a social component to your teaching where participants are asked to react according to their observations of others? Social interactions and reactions are important for mindset development.
  6. Is your teaching pushing transactional or transformational outcomes? Teaching mindset helps leaders move beyond transactional thinking and bring valuable ideas and innovations to the table.
  7. Do you emphasize personal values over conformity in your teaching? Teaching mindset invites participants to bring their own personal values to the training, allowing diverse ideas and solutions to emerge.
  8. Is your teaching focused only on the present circumstances or are future needs and opportunities contemplated? Teaching mindset asks participants to anticipate future needs and opportunities as well as deliver results in the business today.
  9. Do you value imagination in your teaching and training? Teaching mindset asks participants to be imaginative. Teaching mindset shouldn’t answer every question for participants.
  10. Does your teaching encourage rote repetition or routine versus creativity? Teaching mindset demands significant creative thinking.

Five concepts to teach mindset:

  1. Teach systems thinking.
  2. Teach creative thinking.
  3. Teach principles and values.
  4. Teach judgment for paradox.
  5. Teach transformational ideation. i

Leaders cannot be successful with skills alone. Organizations that recognize the importance of developing an innovative and adaptable mindset in their leaders are the ones that will experience the greatest success in the face of ever-increasing change.


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Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 Human Resources, Leadership, Training

2 Comments to The Missing Half of Leadership Training

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by . said: [...]

  2. Tweets that mention -- on June 17th, 2010
  3. Mike,
    You bring up wonderful points and I couldn’t agree more that mindsets should be emphasized in leadership training. Although, many of us struggle with how to do that…

  4. Liz Slape on June 19th, 2010

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About the Author

Mike Thompson BlogMike Thompson is the CEO of SVI, a leading organizational development company that provides leadership development services to companies such as Walmart, PepsiCo, Tyson Foods, University of Phoenix and many more. Mike is also the author of McGraw Hill's new leadership book The Organizational Champion.

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