What Lies Beneath: Why Leadership Training Isn’t the Answer

What Lies Beneath: Why Leadership Training Isn’t the Answer

Meet Luis. Over the past 15 years, Luis has been steadily promoted within his company. Currently, as a Division Vice President, he is well-liked by his managers and direct reports and has been repeatedly told he’s next in line to move up to Senior Vice President. Luis is confident about this next move and feels ready to take on more.

It comes as a shock when, after a round of internal interviews, he is told that the company had decided to go externally to fill the position. He is told that although his internal reputation for delivering results within his team was solid, the executive committee questioned whether Luis had the strategic capability to lead at the next level.

“The executive committee isn’t sure you know how to navigate the critical relationships needed at the SVP level or have the broad gauge on the business that will take us forward. It might help if you took a course on strategy,” posited his boss.

Luis’s story may sound familiar to you: a high flying, bright performer suddenly gets sidelined over a question-mark that hangs over their capabilities. And what’s our typical go-to response to help them get back on track?


Unfortunately, that’s usually the wrong answer.

When your experienced, high performing and high potential leaders have a knowledge gap, they typically don’t wait around to be told that they need training. The DNA of a type-A, ambitious leader is to level-up with what they need, when they need it.

Training is the shallow end of the development conversation but the easy one to jump into.

The reality is, for experienced leaders, we need to dive deeper. We need to lean into the beliefs, biases, motivators and behaviours that begin to trip talented leaders up as they advance through the organizational hierarchy and the context and situation around them begins to shift.

So, we offer up executive coaching stuffed with 360 feedback and personality assessments which all help broaden self insight, but still isn’t enough to change the game.

Repeated studies by McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte and others point to the gap in leadership readiness despite billions of dollars being spent on training and coaching programs each year.

The challenge, when it comes to readying our ‘best and brightest’ is that our methods – training, coaching, mentoring – are often too centered on the individual and not on the system that they operate within.

The future of leadership will be in our ability to move beyond this individualistic model of development and learn how to tap into the potential and power of the collective.

For Luis, his focus on his team and driving results had come at the detriment of building his strategic network and strengthening his peer relationships. He was viewed as a great performer for his functional area but hadn’t demonstrated his ability to work cross-functionally and leverage expertise across the business. With his firm leaning into a heavy acquisition strategy to drive growth, the executive team were looking for a leader at the SVP level who had a proven track record of working collaboratively with other business units to drive innovation and build alignment rapidly.

Could Luis have done this? Quite possibly.

Were the executive team willing to take the risk to give him a try? Not when they could bet on someone else with a proven track record.

For leadership development programs to truly drive the right results, they need to be informed by strategy. Only then will the result be leaders who are ready to make the right move at the right time.

Luis doesn’t need a training program on how to be a better collaborator. Luis needs an opportunity to build his collaboration skills with his peers together, in real-time.

At The Roundtable, we’re focused on building peer and team coaching systems that unleash the collective impact of leaders in your organization. Reach out and find out how we can help your top performing leaders be exceptional and build exceptional teams and cultures, together.



Scroll to Top