Very often, the question of “nature versus nurture” in leadership traits and success is raised on various fora.
A lot of organisations make the strategic error of focusing on organisational training programmes even at the leadership level, when the requirements for leadership development are actually very different.
It is important to take the correct angle when dealing with the enhancement of a leader’s skills and capacity to be effective. Primarily because the strengths, weaknesses and qualities of a leader has the effect of making a work environment better or worse.
Hence you find the saying that goes “a fish often rots from the head”. Well-rounded and strong leaders are essential for organisational growth and success.
It is critical, therefore, that an organisation must take the correct strides to facilitate the necessary skills development in leaders and staff alike as an important step toward improved organisational culture and productivity.
Continuous efforts toward leadership development are important. However, we also need to understand that it is development and not training of leaders that is important.
Training is often the first port of call in helping an individual acquire the basic skills and knowledge necessary for a particular role, job or a group of jobs. This implies that anyone can be trained and that we are all trained in various aspects as we go through the learning process.
Development, on the other hand, relates to growth of an individual in all respects. Therefore, leadership development speaks to growing and assisting leadership to be more effective and balanced individuals. This goes a long way in making sure that the individual brings objectivity and balance to the team they are working with and the organisation as a whole.
This means even more when we realise that the human resources/ remuneration department of most organisations are now talking about total reward systems as opposed to cost to company or basic salary and benefits remuneration models.
A first-class organisation is one that works for the development of its executives in order to enable them to gain advanced knowledge and competence that will see the organisation become a front runner and choice employer.
Below are several perspectives which show how training and development have different impacts:
Training equips an individual with basic skills and knowledge while development goes beyond. Training ensures a person knows what to do and how to do it within specific parameters whereas development looks to balance the holistic individual into a person who can handle tasks well as well as ensures that the individual maximises their potential.
Development occurs beyond the norm, it is long-term and future oriented. It covers not only those activities which improve job performance but also those activities which improve the personality of an employee.
Management development refers to teaching managers and professionals to increase knowledge, skills, attitude, needed for both present and future jobs.
Training is a transactional activity characterised by clear instructions and checks to ensure that the instructions have been heard, understood and can be followed with the expected results. For example, this is how to switch on a computer, to use a word processor or to answer a telephone.
Development is more transformational – here is how to write well, to write clear reports that convey the necessary information to answer a telephone courteously. The knowledge and skills gained through employee development can be carried through to other spheres of an individual’s life as they will also gain the capacity to write business proposals well, to speak with consideration with various relations on varying platforms or to encourage an employee going through a difficult time.
Training focuses on maintenance, ensuring that the employee has the skills required for them to perform the job at hand well and to expected standards. This applies even in the case of refresher training to implement a new system, even in the event that a person has been in the position for some time. Development focuses on growth, how a supervisor would handle added responsibilities on the system, how the supervisor can use the system to improve efficiency on the job.
Once an individual has been trained, they usually show a level of indoctrination, that type of person who becomes set and stuck in their ways of doing things. They even go as far as to tell you that they have been doing things the same way for the past 30 years with no problems. That is a typical result of training.
You may end up believing so much in your training that you fail to see more efficient and effective ways of carrying out job tasks.
Development, on the other hand, educates. It tends to open one’s mind to the fact that are many ways to carry out tasks and the idea is to find a mechanism or a way that works most efficiently for you. It helps you to gain the confidence to think outside of the box, negotiate and solve problems with the intention of improving individual efficacy and effectiveness which lead to individual success and eventually organisational success.
Development catalyses innovation which is a factor known to lead to success. This perspective further allows us to see that training encourages compliance while development emphasises performance and that while training places people in a box from which it is hard to escape, development frees them from that very same box and encourages them to be the best version of themselves.
The biggest difference between the two is that while training is finite – definite start and end dates to the knowledge and skills gained; development is infinite, a continuous combination of skills and attitude acquisition, coaching, mentoring and practice.
As organisation leaders, if the kind of employee that you desire is a robotic, static thinker indulge in a lot of organisational training. However, if you are in search of innovative, critical thinkers – develop them from the team you have within your organisation.
You should not expect to have growing and thriving enterprise that is evolving with the times unless the leadership is in the same space and can encourage the team to follow a similar path.
Karen Manyati is the director of Zimbabwe Leadership Forum and writes in her personal capacity. She can be reached on [email protected]