Leadership: Can Leadership Courses Change Ingrained Behaviours?

Leadership: Can Leadership Courses Change Ingrained Behaviours?

The following is a response to a comment made in a wonderful thread on Linkedin by Dr Payal. C, asking if a 3 – 4 day course could change a manager who had learned their ingrained habits over 30 – 35 years. Here is my reply:

For me, it is possible to create the change you seek with deep seated habitual behaviours by tapping into ideal self, values and reframing what great leadership looks sounds and feels like and the impact this makes in alignment with these values, using a range of interventions, but not in a one off 3 – 4 day course – although a significant amount can be achieved

A course must be delivered so that every behaviour change is communicated in such a way as it creates an attitudinal shift and acceptance. Ideally experience of the approaches conveyed will take place on the workshop and an overall framework of leadership and a guiding methodology will be defined and explored and must be communicated to connect with all social styles across the group and individually.

Including all of these elements will, when delivered by expert facilitators, ideally coaches and individuals with leadership success themselves, create a significant shift in those attending and increase the likelihood and ideally acceptance of the content delivered – but in truth to create the long term behavioural and cultural change you seek will take much more for most people of the nature you describe. Excellence in leadership no matter the starting point takes a great deal of time, energy and commitment.

In truth…

In truth, no matter how good the programme and delivery, (and this comes from an experienced sales leaders who drives for action and who has created life changing shifts in people in one coaching session) the reality is that at best, a concentrated 3 or 4 day group workshop will create an attitudinal shift and a foundation to begin trialling the new behaviours in the field only.

In order to move beyond this and ensure that an attitudinal and behavioural shift does take place there are a number of elements which need to sit around this including; a clear organisational purpose, values, strategy and internal and external journey maps which those attending ascribe.

There must be obtained ‘buy in’ to how the leadership approach supports and underpins the attainment of the organisational success and purpose (as opposed to the existing approach) and open and honest feedback demonstrating that a change in behaviour in the existing leadership/management population is ‘required’.

The overall purpose and behavioural change sought will ideally be communicated and exhibited from the ‘top down’, clear benefits shown to the individual will be aligned with individual values and the long term impact of not making the step to the ‘new’ behavioural approach (including the support that will be provided to get there) will be communicated.

Ideally, all of this will then be delivered 1:1 by a respected line manager and the proposed delegates will choose (choice to opt in or opt out is imperative) to attend with an understanding of why they are attending, what the organisation, department and line manager are looking for from the programme along with agreed clarity of attitudinal and behavioural changes.

During the discussion, it should be clearly articulated that the behavioural changes are sought as a result of and through implementing the behaviour beyond the course and not expected in full as a result of only attending the workshops.

Where this joint agreement and understanding is achieved, the delegate should progress to the course with an agreement that a clear development plan will be constructed before and post the course with ongoing evaluation, recognition and support in making the changes.

The course in its own right, should cover only the number of skills elements which can be covered with sufficient time to accept, understand, practice, reflect and retry the behavioural changes with effective trainer/coach feedback.

As stated, this approach will create an attitudinal shift and foundation to begin trialling the new behaviours in the field and a defined plan of mentoring, observation, feedback and coaching with ‘sign off’ for the live application of each skill will be necessary.

Performance Management, Reward and Recognition … 

Over and above this, based on experience, a clear and transparent link to performance management, with an aligned reward and recognition scheme will need to be in place to ensure that the behavioural shifts desired are acknowledged, documented and formally reinforced.

In essence the whole process needs to be led ahead, during and following attendance through to fruition and treated as the fully aligned, planned and implemented change programme that would be afforded process and system change, with a clearly communicated and bought into case for action.

No matter, whether the leadership population is as you describe, or indeed is naturally engaged, I would advocate the same time and consideration is afforded, where you wish to see sustained behavioural and cultural change.

Over the past 15 years…

Over the past 15 years I have led, delivered and facilitated significant cultural, organisational, people, product and process change, along with business development. In my experience the only ‘shortcuts’ exist not within the process, but in the quality of the leadership team delivering the change, forming part of the change and the trainers, coaches and facilitators. Indeed, it’s this very realisation of the importance of the change system within which all this sits, which led to the development of my own ‘leading change model’ – A.I.R.I.S.E – which is founded upon the ideal of creating the right environment for organisation, team and individual change and growth.

Thank you for prompting me to put finger to keyboard. I hope this share has been useful and would love to hear your thoughts.

Many thanks


What has been your experience?

I’d love to hear from you and how you have found the development you or others have seen during your leadership journey.


Director – Your Leadership Counsel (Trading as Pinion Performance Ltd)

Generating an environment for growth…

Let me know what you think by dropping a comment below, or by sending me an email at stefan@yourleadershipcounsel.co.uk

Twitter: @stefanpowell

Example Testimonial

Below is just one example of the results you can achieve when you train, mentor and coach.

“Inspirational – easy, thorough and methodical to work with while also intuitive, imaginative, creative, incredibly flexible and very accommodating”. Wendy Stern – Founder and Chair of Action For Involvement – http://www.actionforinvolvement.org.uk


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