3 Myths of Leadership Development: Part III

05/05/2015 03:43 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2016

Co-authored by Melissa Mead

In our two previous posts, we've discussed two prominent myths in today's workplace. Myth I, "Leadership is Knowledge," and Myth II, "Leadership Development Should Happen Only with the Top Leaders."

Myth #3: "Leadership Development is about Learning, Not Just Asking"

As we move into the final part of our three part series on the 3 myths of leadership development, our focus is on asking the tough questions. In many cases when building a leadership development model, it is assumed that to learn you have to listen, observe and absorb. This is only partly true -- listening is only half the battle. If the right questions are not asked, then the right information will not be offered. Asking the right questions brings up the correct information needed to build the best leadership development model for an organization.

Rather than believing what you hear, believe in what you ask. Asking the right questions will lead you to build a Leadership Development model that considers both intellectual consideration of opportunities and challenges, as well as identify the emotional difficulties and areas of engagement employees face within an organization.

Most organizations start with the obvious questions when building their leadership development model: What is working? What is missing?

But the toughest question is frequently not asked: What is unspoken?

Unearthing the unspoken acknowledges the "hidden culture" within an organization. This is the stuff that is asked after the meeting or at the water cooler. It is how decisions are made (or not made) and the "unofficial" way to get resolution to a problem. Asking about the unspoken gives a voice to what is really happening in your organization, above the surface and below it.

Most organizations build leadership development plans around an assumed culture and forget to ask what the unspoken culture is. Failing to do this will render a leadership development model less ineffective than it could be. By openly talking about your company's unspoken culture, be sure to identify and distinguish between the "real versus ideal" cultures. Dig deep into what's unspoken in your organization and make it safe to enable change to occur, from all levels throughout. Now... go make it happen!!

To recap on all three myths, In Part I, we looked at the myth "Leadership is Knowledge," and unveiled the truth, which involves ensuring your leadership plan provides not only an extension of knowledge, but also the opportunity to provide opportunity to practice applying new knowledge or skills acquired.

In Part II, we looked at the myth "Leadership Development Should Happen Only with the Top Leaders," and found that in order to build one's Leadership Development pipeline, it's best to involve middle management.

Lastly, in Part III, we uncovered that asking the right questions is equally important to learning, and in fact one of the key factors to ignite change in the workplace.

Jim Finkelstein is the President and CEO of FutureSense, Inc. He is a life long student of people and is an Adjunct Faculty member at Sonoma State University in the Executive MBA program. You can follow him on Twitter @futuresense

Melissa Mead is a writer for FutureSense. You can follow her on Twitter at @mloves2run