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Achieving Lasting Results Through Leadership Training

After successfully concluding a week at one of the world's preeminent leadership training courses, a senior-level executive returns to work full of enthusiasm and new ideas, determined to apply "new skills" learned over the past week. However, when we revisit this person a year later we find no observable changes: the training just didn't "stick." This overview will examine why this happens and show how the research-based approach that underlies InterActive Leadership™ can increase the effectiveness of leadership training by up to 100%.

Many leadership training programs can define a compelling model of leadership and successfully teach the behavioral attributes associated with that model. However, as Dan Goleman points out in numerous examples in Working with Emotional Intelligence, few leaders trained in these new behaviors permanently adopt them.1

Even when a leadership training program is successful in helping participants see the desirability of change and understand specifically what behaviors are required to reach that goal, there is still no more than a 30-40 percent probability of change.2 The reason for this is fairly straightforward.

We do what we think about. Most psychologists concur with the premise that there is a strong, causal connection between thought and action. Thought, however, has many levels: there is a difference between what we believe we think about (which is only the conscious part of our thought process) and that which lies just below these conscious thoughts. Much of the empirical research demonstrates that it is this second level of thought, which we are not typically aware of, that most directly accounts for the way we think and what we ultimately choose to do. This deeper form of thought is termed a motive.3

Motives Drive Results
A motive is defined as "a recurrent stable concern about a goal state which drives and organizes behavior." For example, a recurrent goal state that has been labeled "Achievement Motivation" is a concern about personally performing tasks efficiently. An individual with this recurrent concern is likely to see most situations as opportunities for achieving more efficient performance. This recurrent concern predicts successful performance in roles where excellence is achieved through maximizing personal efficiency (as in some sales situations.) Research at Met Life and Aetna demonstrated that the achievement-oriented salespeople are in the top quartile of sales performance because they only pursue leads where there is a moderate-risk chance of success. Whereas, salespeople who are not achievement oriented tend to pursue leads where the potential payoff is very high but chances of a sale may be low. The former are choosing efficient behaviors, the latter are choosing other behaviors driven by a different recurrent concern.4

Conversely, achievement thoughts in a leadership position lead to behaviors by the leader designed to influence his/her subordinates to replicate the behavior of the leader and, thus, to be efficient. This is accomplished either through asserting direct top-down control to stop deviations from the efficient path or through modeling (i.e., watch me do it and then imitate my behaviors.) Well-documented research has shown that neither mode of leadership is likely to produce the desired business results. In fact, the opposite often occurs.

Both of these examples illustrate the extent to which:

Thoughts Drive Actions to Create Outcomes

As the model suggests, the more an individual selects and organizes the motives (read thoughts) appropriate to achieving a given result, the more that individual will then organize and select actions that will end in attaining that result. Conversely, all the behavioral "skills training" in the world will not ultimately attain the desired result if the motive that drives the actions (behaviors) is not developed.

Leadership Training That "Sticks"
Effective leadership training, then, enables the individual to:

  • experience or "hear" his/her motive thoughts (the recurrent and stable concerns which play like sub-text beneath conscious thoughts)
  • learn how to select thoughts appropriate to the actions required to achieve the desired results.
The directly reported research on leadership training that is based upon learning and developing this Thought ® Action sequence shows that at least two-thirds (66%) of leaders actually change and substantially improve business performance.5

InterActive Leadership™ is based on this research. We employ the proven techniques of the Thought-Action Sequence to enable participants to achieve lasting change. Participants leave this training really understanding how to change. We show leaders how to "think" their way to success, as opposed to forcing themselves into a suit of behaviors that they will soon abandon.


1 Goleman, Daniel, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books, 1998.
2 Goleman, IBID.
3 Murray, Henry. Explorations in Personality, 1938. Atkinson, J.W., (ed.) Motives in Fantasy, Action and Society, 1958.
4 McClelland, D.C., The Achieving Society, Ivington, 1976.
5 McClelland, D.C. and Burnham, D.H. "Power is the Great Motivator," Harvard Business Review, Jan. 1995., McClelland, D.C. Power: Inner Experience. 1975. Spencer, L.M. and Spencer, S. Competence at Work, 1993, pps 286-302, Goleman, IBID