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3 reasons leadership development programs suck

June 21, 2011 - Professional Development

Okay, before anybody flames me, hear me out.

I agree that leadership development programs have their merits.  Experiencing multiple areas of the business quickly and receiving training opportunities you may not otherwise receive make leadership development programs very inviting and desirable for career advancement.  However, for my own career path, I politely declined, and four years later, I continue to be extremely happy with that decision.  And this is why.

1. Control

Being moved to a new role in an organization once a year (or sooner) is a good way to get a taste of multiple roles and groups quickly.  Maybe I’m in the minority on this one, but I want to get good at stuff.  The first three months in a new role, I’m ramping up.  After that, I finally feel like I know what I’m doing, and at the twelve month point, I’m adding real value and thought leadership in the role.  Why in the world would I want to rotate out of the role the moment I begin bringing lens shattering ideas to the table?  Sorry, but I want an extra year to actually make an impact before moving on to something new.

There’s a benefit to being in control of your own career path.  You can make that decision and take that action.  You can decide which role to strive for next.  You can be in control.

newb2. Instant Newb Status

In one’s first five years of employment, it can be tough to build trust and credibility among peers and leadership.  It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of right answers to establish one’s position as an expert in a subject area or two.

But that magic “LDP” tag seems to firmly ground an employee in newb status, regardless of progress or experiences.  Great, you’ve been working here three years!  Oh, you’re an LDP?  Notetaker… action item hunter… report generator…

It’s a big enough feat to get larger, challenging assignments and overcome the newb label without having it printed on your forehead.

3. Politics

Corporate politics.  It’s completely unavoidable in Fortune 500 companies.  In order to get anything accomplished, those murky waters must be navigated.  There’s just no way around it.

Unfortunately, leadership development programs seem to come with an additional layer of internal politics.  Competition is frequently fostered within the program, which can go as far as an internal forced ranking model, requiring even more political maneuvering if tension builds and competition becomes not-so-friendly.

No thanks!  I will own my complete career path.  I will find the necessary training opportunities.  I will insert myself in the leadership experiences I need to get ahead.  And I’ll do it my way, thank-you-very-much.


Alright, now you can flame me (but I’d of course prefer a lively debate : )

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