How Leadership Development Fosters Discontent


When organizations send leaders to training with the intention of improving performance and productivity, they often neglect to raise consciousness among the followers. Those who initiate the training program fail to realize that leaders will be picking up a new language expressed in words and concepts incomprehensible to anyone not included in the training program.

Companies mistakenly assume that when those who attend the program begin to use the new language with their followers, they will also take the time to define the meaning. That seldom happens. Consequently, followers passively pretend to accept the new concepts, but go right on doing things the same old way.

Followers know in a vague way that their leaders are upset at their resistance, but their attitude is, “My boss is always angry about something.”

Discontent from above seems to go with the job. When the leaders return from a training program, however, they have a new list of new ideas. The perception among followers is that their boss came away from the training program dissatisfied with their performance. The sudden attention is perceived as, “We must be at fault in some way.”

Leaders subjected to hostility from followers, mistakenly believe it is just built into the power structure. They are quite taken aback at the lack of respect their followers have for them. They are surprised to learn the reason their followers do what they are told is seldom out of respect for their knowledge, but merely because the followers want to keep their jobs.

For any kind of real progress to occur both sides of the leader-follower equation must be in the same state of readiness and willingness to do new things in new way, they must all receive training, they must accept the same new goals, they must comprehend the same new language, and they must be equally motivated. When there is an imbalance, a company can only limp forward toward its goals.

Almost always, leaders believe in the change sooner than their followers because all of the organization’s attention is focused on what lies ahead. In addition, leaders are far more aware of outside forces and how they affect the need to change. They make collegial comparisons to get an update on what is happening in the industry that might impact the future. In contrast, the workforce is focused on what they need to finish before the end of their day.

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