I’ve been delivering keynotes, webinars, facilitating workshops, and discussing our Strengths-Based Leadership Development System for the past month with many highly experienced HR, Learning, and OD executives. It’s been fascinating to see most of them go through the same struggle I did when I first dug into the compelling research.
On the one hand, comments like this one from Peter Drucker resonates very deeply; “You cannot build performance on weaknesses. You can build only on strengths. To focus on weakness is not only foolish; it is irresponsible. It is a misuse of a human resource as what a person cannot do is a limitation and nothing else.” Most of us immediately get the concept of building strengths intuitively. It makes sense. And it’s clearly aligned with the mounting research from the converging fields of Emotional Intelligence, Positive Psychology, and Appreciative Inquiry.
But then Paradigm Paralysis sets in. To actually build leadership development around strengths means a big change in our models/frameworks. To get to a new destination we need to take a new route. The same old road won’t get us there.
The vast majority of us steeped in the leadership development field have focused on closing organizational or managerial gaps and weaknesses. We’ve used needs or gap analysis to find the weak spots and then gone to work on fixing those.
But that approach isn’t working. If we continue using the same dysfunctional approaches and expecting different results we’ll drive ourselves insane! Study after study shows 70% of organization change efforts fail. And the vast majority of leadership development programs produce very little change.
We need a new approach. As outlined by American physicist, historian, and philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn, in his widely quoted book, The Nature of Scientific Revolutions, it’s time for a paradigm shift. I wrote a newsletter article published by the Canadian Society for Training and Development summarizing my big shift in thinking on leadership development. That is now available on our web site. Click Manifesto for a Leadership Development Revolution to read it.
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