Leadership development is NOT a “one-off!”

Only 30% of business leaders worldwide are satisfied with their leadership development programs. That fact has been keeping me up at night.

How do we close this gap?

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that the best leaders and the best organizations are NEVER satisfied! That is, the best always want to do better––no matter how good they are.

Now there are many reasons for the low level of satisfaction. Today we’re going to zero in on the one that is most within your control. Focus on this one thing and your leadership development will be more effective…


Effective leadership development requires continual commitment on the part of the individual and the continual support of the organization.

I’ve seen too many leadership development programs that depend on “one-off” training with little or no follow-up.

You don’t forge leaders at a conference or a weekend seminar. That may sound strange coming from someone who makes a living speaking at conferences and conducting seminars––but it’s true!

Because that’s what I do, I understand the constraints. In a conference keynote, I have one goal and one goal only: to inspire people to think about the most important aspects of human-centric leadership. Sure, I also share a few strategies along the way, but I don’t expect people to leave a one hour presentation with a comprehensive action plan.

In a seminar or workshop we can dive a little deeper. We develop specific action steps, analyze them for viability and probability of success and leave with a plan…

But will you do it?

In our workshops we have purposely chosen a specific word for these action steps…


Why this word? Because it takes us beyond any to-do or checklist. It means we are going to focus on areas that we are able and willing to embed in our daily lives.


My martial arts life taught me that DISCIPLINE is the development and PRACTICE of meaningful and purposeful habits. Given the constraints of space here––let’s focus on this idea of “practice.”

Psychologists today are patting themselves on the backs for “discovering” the secret to excellence in human performance. I’ve read it in a half-dozen recent leadership books. It’s said many ways. Here’s a great example:

“If you want a rough metric of what it’ll take to achieve the highest level of expertise, the estimate is about 10,000 hours of practice over a period of ten years. That’s about 2.7 hours a day, every day for ten years.”

That one comes from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner; respected researchers and authors of the wonderful book, The Leadership Challenge.

They’re right. I’m not going to argue the substance. I’m just always puzzled that so much energy is devoted to “discovering” what martial artists have known for thousands of years!

Bruce Lee neatly summed up these thousands of years of martial philosophy in this simple, powerful observation:

“I don’t fear the man who knows 10,000 kicks. I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Leadership is a practice. And it must be practiced––continually. 

Conferences, seminars, workshops––books, videos and online programs are all extremely valuable. But these are the means––not the ends! This is where you study and learn the skills, behaviors and best practices that help you grow and develop as a leader. Then you’ve got to embed meaningful and purposeful habits in your daily leadership practice…


There are two essential components of effective performance:

  • Learning
  • Practice

If you want to learn, grow and develop as a leader––and these days you’d better unless you want to be rendered obsolete, you’ve got to be willing to learn. And you’ve got to commit yourself to continual practice.

On the organization level, one of the most destructive factors leading to disappointing results in leadership development is the lack of ongoing organizational support.

If you want your leaders to succeed, you’ve got to give them:

  • Learning and training opportunities
  • Time to implement and practice what they’ve learned
  • Feedback and other means to assess their performance along the way
  • Opportunities to evolve

One of the most powerful ways to assure continuity in this process is to have people share what they’re learning and doing with others. We encourage people to openly share and expand on whatever they take away from a SENSEI LEADER event. As every good teacher knows––you learn even more when you teach others.

“Perfection is NOT a destination. It’s a never-ending process.” 

Especially in leadership!

Effective leaders are the product of continual commitment to this process. It requires discipline, focus and time. Both on the part of the individual––and the organization.

Jim Bouchard

Jim Bouchard

Jim Bouchard is an internationally recognized speaker, Leadership Activist, and founder of The SENSEI LEADER Movement™. He’s the author of 8 leadership books, and hosts Walking The Walk, a ... Web: www.armstrongspeakers.com Details