The Difference between Leadership Training and Leadership Development

I read an article recently that said, according to the ASTD (American Society for Training & Development), the US spends over $170 billion dollars on leadership curriculums, specifically focusing on Leadership Training. However, the article went on to say, that the investment never really pays off in the real sense of actually creating leaders. These ‘leaders-to-be’ start off with great gusto and grandiose ambitions but quickly burn out when the going gets tough. I couldn’t help but smile sympathetically, not at the financial payoff (or lack thereof) of the program but the sheer misunderstanding of a fundamental concept – leaders are not trained, they are developed.

The first question that tends to come up now is if this is really a matter of semantics. Are we just playing word games? Are we just being equivocal about the way we use terms? The honest truth in response to the above-mentioned questions is “NO”. There are foundational differences between Leadership Training and Leadership Development. And it is these differences that we’re going to focus on in this blog:

  • Training is objective while Development is subjective

Training generally tends to adhere to a preconceived set of ideas, rules and systems that were created based on past experiences and administered within controlled environments. Development on the other hand is custom-made for the individual based on his or her individual traits in preparation for future and possibly unforeseeable circumstances.

  • Training is ‘system oriented’ while Development is ‘people oriented’

Training tends to focus on methodology, system and manuals. It generally adheres to fixed standards and operates within a rigid framework of repetitive efficiency. Development on the other hand focuses on the people involved and works with the aspects of individual character and personality to develop maximum potential.

  • Training aims to ‘indoctrinate’ while Development looks to ‘educate’

Training generally looks to the immediate application of specific methodologies. It is transactional in nature and focuses on maintaining a certain performance trajectory. Development however focuses more on the future adaptation of the individual being developed and looks to educating the employee for maximum efficiency through potential.

Modern Leadership Training Programs however have discovered the subtleties between training and development and try to bridge the gap with a more comprehensive approach to grooming an employee with leadership potential.

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