What do you do when you meet the trained leader?

Good leadership is a commodity. What do you do when you have leaders in your organization who feel "unlearned"? How do you trigger further growth, engagement and desire for development? 

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By Camilla Caspersen

Leadership developer, FRONT Leadership

In my job, I meet many hungry leaders who are eager to to learn and eager to share. They are positively triggered when they are challenged to think in new ways. They are also interested in diving even deeper into what they already know.

As a leadership developer, I find this very motivating. Everyone in the class gets an even better learning effect, because all contributions and views help to color the program and the outcome of the training. These discussions with glimpses of leadership in practice are worth their weight in gold!

But it also often happens that I meet the trained manager.

Those who have been managers for a while have attended leadership development and courses in the past, and say: "I've heard this before."

"That's good," I say. 

"Then you know where to start and can really use your experience and knowledge for all it's worth. Maybe some of the newbies here can also share their thoughts with you, adding another perspective to your toolbox?" 

Unfortunately, this attitude is not always contagious. Some people have decided that they are educated and believe that they know best.

What has happened? They have forgotten that leadership must be maintained

In these cases, the person has usually locked their mindset on "been there, done that". The important thing to convey is that leadership is fresh! 

If you want to be good, you have to train. Even if you've seen training videos on how to get stronger biceps - and done your own biceps curls - it doesn't mean that the biceps muscle is there forever. It's the same with leadership.

The fact that leadership is a commodity means that the skills must be practiced regularly. That presence, curiosity and openness never cease to be necessary. That leadership requires training and dedication. How do we communicate this to all managers in the best possible way?

How do we deal with the "trained leader"? Those who say: "I've seen this model before!", those who won't adopt new insights because they think they're doing everything right already?

I'll tell you what I usually do.

Growth mindset and other people's perspectives are important 

In most cases where I have met the trained leader, they have been part of a larger group. They're not difficult to spot. They are usually the ones who try to put me in put me in my place. They often sit back and ask critical questions about the program. They tend to talk a lot about themselves and their experiences, but don't ask many questions to the rest of the audience. They are often frustrated because they feel that they automatically become a mentor in the group without getting much in return.

What do I do? Well, I make them see themselves through other people's eyes.

These leaders have often forgotten the following: How, through a learning mindset, they can utilize the people around them - using the experiences and perspectives of others as new eyes to challenge themselves even more. 

And it's not always me who does the main work to create these insights.

Because when I've met the trained manager on courses, I've rarely had to challenge them so much in return. The colleagues of the trained manager have often taken care of that task! And when the mirror is turned around and they see themselves through someone else's glasses, the beep quickly takes on a different sound.

When their colleagues challenge them on the course, they stop thinking that there is something wrong with the program or "scheme". They understand that it is their own dedication and ownership of the leadership program that they need to work on - and not least the confidence to step outside their comfort zone and try something new. Dare to think differently, look inwards and humbly venture into uncharted waters.

Then the question is: How do we create this insight, this ownership and this curiosity in all leaders from the start? 

Leadership development: What I believe in

I believe in facilitating in small drips, to make it manageable and create growing insights. I believe in simple and useful tools that can be adapted to the manager's workday and nudging to facilitate training and leadership in practice.

I believe in regular feedback, customized training groups, connected managers and, not least, colleagues who dare to challenge each other positively. I believe in ownership and good role models from top to bottom, and a psychological security that everyone can benefit from.

What do you think it takes to go from "been there, done that" to "been there, what's next"?