A growing criticism of MBA programmes in recent years has been their focus on the logistical side of business (strategy, finance, operations) rather than the interpersonal or emotional intelligence elements. This is a criticism that can be applied to many leadership development programmes too.
The focus on developing leaders’ ability to build relationships and communicate well tends to falter once they are past their first role as a team leader or their early days as a middle manager. Those programmes that do include some element of communication or interpersonal skills tend to cover this at such a high level or in so short a time that leaders have little opportunity to achieve any level of meaningful development.
And yet research evidence shows that the more senior your role as a leader, the more critical your communication skills become, and that the large majority of managers handle more difficult conversations badly or even avoid them altogether.*
But why so little focus on building the advanced communication skills that senior businesspeople need to ensure not only their own success, but that of the people they lead? Do we assume senior leaders have naturally developed these critical skills by the time they reach this level in the hierarchy? Do leaders themselves not recognise the need to keep developing in this area, or is it seen as less important than skill in thinking strategically or having financial nous? Is there simply not time to do so?
What do you think is the cause? Or do you work in an organisation where there is meaningful and sustained commitment to leaders developing this critical skillset?
*Source: Performance Coaching International, Coaching at Work, 2008
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