Leadership development within the framework of 3 E’s is an effective and appropriate model. Life lessons teach us that we learn best through a combination of Education, Experiences and Emotional development.
I am perpetually taken aback by the number of organizations that still focus their leadership development on ‘courses’. When I am asked if I will help to design courses for a client I always ask for the full scope of the approach to developing leaders. If the answer doesn’t go further than ‘courses’ I pass on the opportunity. Having said that, I still think there is a place for Education in developing leaders. I can recall models, frameworks and methodologies from years ago that still help me in my leadership. Education of course doesn’t have to just be plenaries delivered by experts. We all know that good Education stimulates more than just cerebral advancement. We learn from examples, role models, experts, other leaders, reading, practice, and so on. Leadership Education should be a combination of all of these and more.
Experiences are probably the most important aspect of developing leaders. I also think that there is no substitute for ‘Experience’ in great leaders – only ever gained by ‘Experiences’. Sometimes a young leader demonstrates ‘wisdom beyond their years’, and this is a real gift. But all leaders need to be tested, stretched, exposed, and grown through Experiences that give them the benefit of learning to apply their Education. Just recently I was working with a client to design a leadership development program. Right from the start we used words like experiences, emotion, journey and ownership. Yes, we have had set events to Educate, but we have included significant elements of Experience as well. These test the participants in their ability to apply learning, demonstrate capability, add value, show judgment, build curiosity and lead others – all of which are paramount to great leadership.
The third E is the element of Emotional development. Some leaders develop earlier than others in this respect – by which I mean that they have balance, insight, self-management, perception and maturity. A lot can be said for the childhood and student years of how leaders develop emotionally. Whilst this may not be an absolute prognosis, young people who are stimulated, encouraged, disciplined and relationally stable, often prove to be good at applying the same when it comes to leading others. There is always the caveat of leaders who emerge from adversity and I highly respect this as a major motivation in great leadership.
When leadership development strategy is considered, elements such as projects, mentoring, secondments, assignments, shadowing and assessment should be high up on the list. Folding these into a program (I dislike the word curriculum – which has a ‘school’ connotation), alongside learning and exposure to other leaders makes for an effective combination. Building this sort of leadership development environment means that Education, Experiences and Emotional development are all allowed for. In my opinion, it is essential that all 3 E’s are considered at the birth of leadership development program design and should also be tested to prove the integrity of the program on an on-going basis.