Is leadership training just a waste of time and money? Every year US companies spend 45 billion dollars on leadership training (Bersin, 2014). Despite this huge financial investment, demonstrating that managers have become better leaders is not an easy task, and most leadership training doesn’t lead to measurable long-term effects. In fact, some studies even point to leadership training doing just the opposite!

However, Stefan Einhorn, Professor at the Center for Social Sustainability, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, says that we shouldn’t take this as proof that leadership training is useless. Einhorn says that we can attribute the failure of training to a misplaced emphasis on the individual manager. Instead of investigating the manager’s relationship with their employees, we have focused almost solely on their personal development.

Einhorn believes that two things need to happen for leadership training to have a positive impact:

Firstly, we need to shift our focus from the individual to the team. Rather than focusing on individual development, we need to home in on the relationship between the leader and the employees.

He urges leaders to acknowledge their bad habits and recognize the consequences of their behavior. Leaders need to ask themselves: “How is my team affected by my speech and behavior? Simply put, leaders need to start thinking “we” instead of “me.”
Secondly, instead of trying to build positive characteristics, we need tear down negative behaviors. Einhorn believes that training should focus more on changing bad behavior than on reinforcing positive.

Getting rid of negative habits is important, as employees are more strongly affected by their managers’ negative actions (being ignored, criticized, and harassed) than by their positive actions (attention, rewards, praise). Einhorn says that this is most likely evolutionary: if we focused on risks, we had a better chance of surviving.

According to Einhorn, there are four important attributes for a leader:

A leader must:

…have high self-confidence,
…be able to communicate clearly,
…be able to express optimism,
…be able to express hope for the future.

Einhorn’s message is that if you want to become a better leader, you need to work with your dark side. Face your bad habits. Get rid of negative behavior.

At Celemi we strongly believe in leadership development, and are dedicated to delivering long-term results. If you would like to know more about our take on Leadership Development, please contact us and we’d be glad to help. 

Source: DI, March 2015 Stefan Einhorn, Professor at the Center for Social Sustainability, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm,