It is our conviction that business leaders today, seeking both personal development and organizational improvement, need to be challenged far more than they need to be trained or taught.

In our 25 years of consulting work numerous leaders have told us that they have been trained to death over the course of their careers. They say that they have learned various management systems, adopted diverse approaches, and yet seen little change in the fundamental dynamics of their organizations. They tell us, often with more than a hint of cynicism, that they have lost faith in such programs.

The reason this scenario plays out again and again is, we believe, quite simple. Most leadership development focuses almost exclusively on surface-level behaviors, giving tools, tips, and strategies designed to improve leaders’ performance.

What such approaches fail to take into account is the fact that action is invariably shaped by deeper paradigms, mental models, and value systems. Trying to change daily actions without addressing these underlying factors–as so many training programs seek to do–becomes an exercise in futility. Some level of short-term change can be achieved, but as enthusiasm inevitably wanes, ingrained habits and patterns of thought begin to reassert themselves.

It becomes clear that the linchpin of sustainable leadership development–and therefore productive organizational change–is transforming not what leaders do, say, and decide, but what they believe, feel, and assume. The key, in short, is not what leaders do, but who leaders are.

© Copyright 1999-2012 Management Associates. All rights reserved.