Like many consultants, I sometimes struggle to follow the great advice I give other people. Okay, more than sometimes. The whole ‘physician, heal thyself’ thing comes along like a spiritual two-by-four upside my head pretty often.

But the situation where ‘do as I say, not as I do’ really gets my goat is during a leadership development engagement when the boss is uninterested or disengaged from the effort.

And I’m not talking about one-and-done engagements (I don’t do those). These are six- to twelve-month, multiple group- and individual-session engagements, so there are some talented people doing heavy lifting trying to be better leaders. But I know it will be an uphill slog when the CXO who signs my check wants the team to improve but doesn’t want to be involved.

For instance, a few years back I worked with the team of a CXO who complained that everyone – despite his best efforts – suffered from the same leadership shortcomings. It bears mentioning that these senior managers had exactly two things in common: they had the same boss, and they all breathed air.

I politely suggested to the CXO that if it smelled like dog crap everywhere he went, he should probably check his shoe, after which he made it clear that he was NOT one of the people who needed coaching.

You’ve heard the old saw: “What if I develop my people and they leave?” “But what if you don’t and they stay?”


It was de ja vu all over again during a follow-up phone conversation with an exec about an additional engagement with some of his bright-and-shineys. After he assured me that everything was going great, he said something that could have come from a Wall Street movie spoof (and I’m not making this up). He said he had neither the time nor the inclination to do leadership development.

At least he was truthful.

Now, I’m not claiming to be able to waltz in and waive my magic around and “fix” a team’s problems or instantly improve their leadership skills, but it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out what’s behind his department’s struggles.

For Pete’s sake, you don’t have to have an advanced degree or a special certification to develop leaders in your organization (I use my PhD to plant fence posts). You just have to be smart enough to realize that it isn’t what you do as a senior leader that makes you successful. It’s the efforts of the people who work for you. No success for them = no success for you.

And I’m okay if you don’t want to get your hands dirty making positive and lasting changes in your organization by developing your people. That’s not everyone’s forte, and there are plenty of senior leaders who are above that kind of touchy-feely stuff anyway. After all, I’m sure everyone at C-level models the behaviors they want to see in their employees. (That’s sarcasm if you missed it.)

But someone has to, because doing nothing isn’t a reasonable option.  If your company doesn’t have a leadership skills development process that produces measurable leadership improvement, please, PLEASE hire someone from the outside who can help.

Oh, and senior leadership involvement in the process isn’t optional, either, unless no one’s serious about development in the first place.

So how about it, leaders? Are you intentionally engaged in developing your people, or are you going to hire someone who will be? Because doing nothing isn’t a C-Level option.

It’s up to you.

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