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Why On-Line Leadership Development Can't Deliver Sustainable Improved Performance by Leanne Hoagland-Smith

Editor's Note: With the advent of e-learning more and more companies are using online learning to develop staff. However, the media involved are not always suitable to the content and goals, which is a critical determinant of success. This article suggests that on-line learning will fail as a means for developing leadership skills.

On-line learning has captured an ever-increasing percentage of the training dollars from many companies including public schools and universities. For some cognitive skills such as computer training and understanding the fundamentals of World History, this makes sense. However, e-learning specifically on-line learning is not the way to go if the organization or an individual truly wants sustainable change through leadership development.

First, what is leadership? The answer to this question is a varied as the autumn colors. Within my practice, I define leadership as the ability to secure results within clearly articulated core values. This definition works for individuals to large organizations and from young to old. Also, to be an effective leader requires extensive development of interpersonal or what some still refer to as "soft skills."

To be able to get results requires that you as an individual understand and can relate to others. Even if it is just one individual attempting to improve her or his leadership skills, the individual needs to be able to practice those skills and receive immediate feedback.
Sitting in front of a desk and typing responses onto a computer screen is not interactive feedback and lacks the opportunities to further develop those critical soft skills. Remember what makes human behavior human is we are human and subject to immediate and unpredictable change.

For example, as a leader, I am trying to secure a specific result from a fellow co-worker or team member. All my attempts to communicate positively and respectfully through e-mail and telephone have failed. This means I still do not have the desired result. I must now meet that person, face to face, and communicate my intention. I may have learned all the cognitive aspects of non-verbal communication as well as neuro-linguistic programming from a computer, but until I actually confront a real person who has the potential of changing the interaction with an unplanned response. I must be able to use my intuitive sense to meet and work with that individual.

Leadership courses delivered by computers through the Internet fail to infuse the intuitive sense that we accumulate as our experiences grow. Given enough information, what we know as adults is that sense of intuition is usually validated.

Research suggest that the best learning environment for leadership or any other subject matter is one where face to face is blended with technology such as video and Internet. If leadership is all about the effective use of interpersonal skills, then how can such an impersonal tool even an intelligent one develop leadership?

Copyright 2005(c) Leanne Hoagland-Smith, M.S.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith, M.S. doubles results for people and business within 30 to 180 days. If improving your results is a goal, then visit or email [email protected] or call 219.759.5601.


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