Successful Supervisor 23 – Delegation and Micromanagement

April 22, 2017

I have written on the topics of delegation and micromanagement before on this blog. In this article I will describe the issue from the point of a supervisor, because the caveats are even more critical in that arena.

It is normal, but not universal, that the supervisor of a work cell has a very deep understanding of the processes that are performed in her area. This situation is because a common path for an individual to become a supervisor is to work herself up from the shop floor as a result of her content knowledge of the processes.

She has worked in the area for many years and has shown some leadership ability and dedication to the organization, so when an opportunity arose she was promoted to supervisor.

A supervisor taking this common pathway is in a precarious position relative to the concepts of delegation and micromanagement. I will describe these issues separately and then discuss an antidote for both problems.


If you start with the premise that the supervisor knows the process at least as well as the people working for her, it is a challenge to delegate because she knows very well how the tasks should be performed. Her employees are often less experienced, so they will need some instruction, which will take time to accomplish.

Picture the logic going on in the head of the average supervisor as she contemplates delegating the task of making a widget to an inexperienced employee.

“I can spend the next three hours explaining to George how to do this job correctly and safely, but there is a good chance he will mess it up anyway because it is very tricky. Chances are I will need to come in and bail him out when he gets stuck, which will take me more time. I could do the job myself in a little over an hour and know it will be done correctly, so I am far better off just getting it done.”

Another issue with delegation is that the supervisor has a rigid picture of what the finished product needs to look like as a result of her history. She will not be amenable to creative solutions that work just as well, or maybe better, than the old way.

If someone comes up with an “improved” version of the function, it will appear to the supervisor as a problem to be resolved rather than a breakthrough to be embraced.

The natural tendency is for the supervisor to limit delegation for the above reasons. That practice stifles the growth of her employees and blocks new methods from being developed.


Since the supervisor knows full well how the job should be accomplished, she will be quick to intervene if an employee is not on the right track. She will insist that the employee use the standard process in every case and hover over the employee to ensure that happens.

We all know that the impact of micromanagement is highly negative in terms of motivation. We have experienced the exasperation of being asked to do something only to be guided every step of the way as to exactly how to do it.

That practice takes all the fun and initiative out of doing the job, and the employee grinds his teeth and is forced to comply with the instructions.

The unfortunate result is stagnation, because to reach excellence we must go well beyond compliance and achieve the full energy of everyone in the workforce.

In addition, the supervisor cannot possibly witness every step of every operation simply because she has many people reporting to her, so she becomes fragmented and frustrated herself even though she is trying to do things right. What a mess!

The Antidote

To reduce these problems, the wise supervisor leans less in the direction of a manager trying to force everyone into a compliant mold and more in the direction of a leader who empowers people to use their own brains.

She ensures that employees are trained on how to do the job safely and according to specifications. Then she needs to step back and give the employee some breathing room. Quite often the employee will discover a way to do the job faster and better than the supervisor could.

I recall one supervisor who had a penchant for micromanaging. One thoroughly frustrated employee brought in a fake pair of handcuffs and kept them in his work station.

When the supervisor came around and started to bark out orders for how to do the tasks, the employee would get out the handcuffs and put them on. He would say something like, “I will do whatever you force me to do, but I think if you take the cuffs off I will get a lot more done.”

The supervisor got the message rather well and changed her pattern. Of course such a direct approach might be viewed as insubordination to the supervisor, so I would not advise trying it.

If you are guilty of micromanaging more than you should, how can you tell? Look for clues in the body language of the people you are coaching. A stiffening of the facial muscles is an indication of stress.

Also, watch the hands; if you see the fingers clench into a semi fist posture when you suggest that the person try something, it is a good bet that person is feeling micromanaged.

Another easy way to tell if you are too intrusive with your suggestions is simply to ask the person. “Am I being too prescriptive here?” often will generate an honest reply, especially if you have not bitten off the person’s head the last few times he has opened up about his feelings or expressed an opinion.

You can also ask other people if you have a tendency to micromanage. Have the topic of micromanagement be on the agenda for group meetings and have an open discussion about the level of coaching you are giving. It may lead to healthy and valuable input.

When a supervisor does not delegate enough or tends to micromanage tasks, it sends a strong message that she does not trust her employees to do things right. That visible lack of trust will quickly break down a culture, and the work area will become much less productive.

To prevent this decay, she should take the slight risk and delegate tasks more freely. Also, she needs to avoid hovering over people to verify they are doing everything according to her paradigm. Taking these steps will enhance rather than squash employee engagement.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at, or 585.392.7763

Working With Millennials

September 12, 2016

There are numerous books and articles on the differences in generational work groups and how to manage them successfully. In this brief article I want to share some thoughts of my own on the topic of working with Millennials (defined as people born after 1980).

In no way will this be a complete treatise on the topic, rather I wanted to point out some of the dangers I see in some things I have read.

Beware of stereotypical generalities. We often read that millennials are lazy or less loyal than previous work groups. There may be some truth to the trend in specific cases, but individual differences make it dangerous to label everyone in a specific group as having specific traits.

It is important to understand each person as an individual and not deal with an entire generation with broad brush and biased labels.

I do agree that we need to pay attention to the different environment that each person grew up in as a significant force in shaping the way a person thinks or acts.

Way back in the late1980’s Dr. Morris Massey, who was at the University of Colorado at Boulder, did a series of programs entitled, “What You Are is Where You Were When (you were value programmed).”

At the time, Dr. Massey was focusing on the differences between Boomers (born between 1945-1964) and Generation X (born between 1965-1980). His conclusion was that significant behavioral patterns could be explained by the environment that an individual grew up in, but we had to leave significant room for individual differences before trying to pigeonhole people.

Undoubtedly the most significant difference between millennials and prior generations is in the area of communications. Millennials were the first fully digital generation, so their whole approach to interfacing with other people is different.

It is astonishing to me that millennials prefer to communicate via the juxtaposition of individual letters and spaces (with interspersed “emojis” and their own abbreviations)as has been the custom for centuries.

Curiously, the keyboard layout thumbed by all millennials to “text” each other was invented by Christopher Sholes in 1867.

You would think that their main mode of communication with each other would be voice and video. While there is plenty of that, the preferred method of conversation (even when sitting right next to the other person) is by the juxtaposition of letters and spaces projected onto a little screen.

One generality that I believe is true is that on average, millennials are less patient with a slow pace of their own development. This is a hint for all managers who are working with millennials.

It is much more important for people in this group to have a concrete development plan. This should include milestones and projected advancement. The danger here is that advancement opportunities are not totally predictable, and that could lead to frustration.

Once a person has gained the skills for the next level of career position, it is tedious to wait in line until the next opportunity to move up appears. Hence, we see millennials willing to job hop in order to move up if no opportunity is available in their current organization.

The antidote here is to cross train the person on additional skills so he or she becomes more valuable to the organization through the passage of time.

The lesson here is that if you try to keep a millennial static or keep promising movement that does not occur, you are usually going to lose the person to another organization. That pattern leads to high turnover, which is a major cost problem for any organization.

The Wegmans Grocery Chain was just awarded one of the best organizations for millennials. They have been on the list of 100 Best Workplaces for the past 19 years. The secret of their success is to train and cross train the young people constantly. It adds to bench strength and it allows Wegmans to operate with lower than 10% turnover in an industry that often runs in excess of 40% turnover. That is a huge financial advantage.

Another way to appeal to millennials is to have a principle centered business. These people are more interested in the social responsibility of the organization for which they work, because they are convinced that it leads to long term success.

The younger generation is less tolerant of hypocrisy and bureaucracy than more seasoned workers because they see it as a conscious choice, and they want to work at a place that has staying power.

Working with Millennials may seem frustrating if you are trying to apply the operating philosophies that worked for the Boomers or Generation X. You cannot fight the trends, and they are not going away. The best approach is to embrace the younger generation into the workforce and impress them with your operational excellence and vision for the future.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at, or 585.392.7763

Training Your Brain

April 9, 2016

Life is constantly changing and throwing challenges our way. Using Emotional Intelligence helps us respond to these changes wisely, but we also have to monitor our daily self-talk and overall attitude toward life.

When circumstances or other forces prevent us from experiencing life in a way that makes the most sense to us, we often turn sour and develop what is known as a “bad attitude.”

This mindset becomes manifest in numerous familiar ways from pouting, to doubting, to shouting, and even to clouting. We may even lose our motivation to keep moving forward.

Is there a universal secret that can help people keep a more positive attitude most of the time? Let me share two extremes.

I know a woman who wears a pin with ruby slippers on it. She is like a ray of sunshine who is on a constant crusade to spread as much cheer as she can with everyone. Does she ever have a bad day? I’ll bet she does, but I have never seen her really down. She lives in a very nice world, even when some people are not very nice to her.

I ran into a different woman in a hair salon this past week. The woman spoke in a constant stream of babble. She literally could not stop talking. Every phrase she uttered was negative. For her, the world was the pits, and she was forced to endure a steady stream of clueless morons.

I marvel over these two extremes. Ask yourself seriously, where on the scale between these two extremes do you reside most of the time?

I need to make a distinction here between the majority of people who have some control over their thoughts and the few people who have deep psychological problems based on disease or prior traumas.

There are people who feel they must lash back at the world because of what they have been forced to endure. Perhaps it was some kind of physical or mental abuse when they were a child. Perhaps there was a total betrayal by a trusted loved one. For these people, trying to alter their mental state by thinking positive thoughts might further repress some gremlins that need to come out with professional help.

For the majority of folks, even though we have some issues to resolve, learning to have a more positive attitude could be a major step forward in terms of leading a happier life.

The greatest power God gave us is the power to choose. I learned that from Lou Holtz 25 years ago in a video entitled “Do Right.” What Lou meant is that the choice is ours where we exist on the scale of attitude.

So, how come many people choose to dwell on the negative side of life? Is it because they enjoy being miserable? I think not. I believe if a person realizes there is a more enjoyable place to dwell, he or she will do the inner work necessary to gravitate toward it.

The reason many people live in misery is because they simply do not know (or fail to remember) that they have the power to change their condition. It is there all the time, if they will only recognize and use the power. In the song “Already Gone” by The Eagles, is a profound lyric, “So often times it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”

What technique of the mind can we use to remember the power we have over our thoughts? It is simple. We need to deal with root issues and then train our brain to think in a different pattern.

It has been demonstrated that habitual thought patterns can be changed simply by replacing bad thoughts with good ones consistently for about a month. That is long enough to reprogram our brain to overcome a lifetime of negative attitudes and thoughts.

There is a simple process that is guaranteed to work if we will only use it consistently.

Step 1 – Catch yourself having a negative thought. This is the part where most people fail. They simply do not recognize they are having negative thoughts, so no correction is possible.

Through the power of this article, you now have the gift (if you chose to use it) of catching the negative thought next time you have one. Use that power!

Step 2 – Replace the negative thought with a positive one. Mechanically reject the negative thought and figure out a way to turn it to an advantage.

Napoleon Hill had a great technique for doing this. He posited that every bad situation contained the seed of an equivalent benefit. When something negative happened, rather than lamenting, he would fix his energy on finding the seed of the equivalent benefit. With practice, it is possible to do this most of the time.

Don’t just think the thought; feel the positive feelings that the positive thought evokes. This part of the process is what gives this step its power boost. Then act in congruence with the thought and emotion. This way of dealing with negative thoughts and behaviors will literally change your life.

Step 3 – You must praise yourself for rejecting the bad thought and replacing it with a good one. Why? Because the road to changing a lifetime of negativity is long and hard. You need encouragement along the way to recognize that you are literally reinventing your entire self through the power of your mind. One might think this is impossible objectively, but you are accomplishing it.

I read a joke that it is great to be a youth because you do not have the experience to know that it is physically impossible to do what you are doing.

Every time you praise yourself for taking the initiative to change your attitude, you make the next life-changing attitude adjustment easier to make. Thus, you can begin to form a habit of changing the way you think. Presto, a month later the world will see a new and much more positive you.

The good news is that this three-step process takes no time out of your busy day. It costs absolutely nothing to do it, yet it can literally transform the only thing in life that really counts: the quality of your life.

The amazing thing about this technique is that it can be taught to others rather easily. The idea is so simple it can be understood in a five minute discussion, yet the benefits are so powerful it they can make a huge difference in the life of the other person.

I recommend you try this method of self-improvement for a month and experience the benefits. Once you do, then help some people who are miserable to improve their lot in life by applying this process.

Developing Emotional Intelligence and changing your attitude will open the door to making positive changes in your life. You will see that you DO have the power to make changes and see life in a different way: a more powerful way. You can use that new power to start making tangible differences in your life because you will trust yourself and your ability to control your outcomes better.

Key Concepts in this article

1. You can train your brain to think differently

2. Three step process:
• Catch yourself having a negative thought,
• Turn that thought into the seed of an equivalent benefit, and let the seed blossom,
• Praise yourself for the growth.

3. You need to apply this technique consistently for 30 days for it to become a habit.

Exercises for you

1. Write down 5 ideas to improve your attitude today. Start a habit of thinking of attitude improvement ideas every morning.

2. Have a conversation with another person about changing attitudes. Resolve between the two of you to help each other along a path to greater control of this dimension.

3. Catch yourself with a poor attitude using the model outlined in this article. Start using it today, and make sure to reward yourself for the growth.

4. Teach the three step approach to other people as a way to help them improve their life.

5. Create a mutual support system around using the self-correcting model. Make it into a group exercise. Groups can benefit by this approach as much as individuals can.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.  For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at, or 585.392.7763


Trust and Development of People

September 12, 2015

There are many things leaders need to do to build a culture of high trust. One important concept is to continually develop their people.

When people see a pathway to higher capability, their work is more interesting and rewarding, so they become more engaged in it.

In high development organizations, people trust the managers to improve their lot in life by making them more valuable to the organization. They recognize the company’s investment in growing them, and they naturally return the favor by applying themselves further to their work.

There is a solid correlation between development of people and the level of trust an organization can achieve with the work force.

Development of people also creates low employee turnover because employees are happier. Here is a prime example of the connection.

Wegmans is a grocery chain in the northeast United States that is based in Rochester NY. This private organization has been on the list of top 100 companies to work for in America every year since 1998, often scoring in the top 10, and won the top slot in 2005.

I am familiar with this company because I live in Rochester. They have worked for years on developing a culture of high trust. They do this through numerous methods championed by their late founder, Robert Wegman.

One hallmark of Wegmans is that they are fanatical about the development of people. It is not the only underpinning of their culture, but it is an obvious pillar of why they are so successful.

People are cross trained, which adds variety and substance to their employment. It also creates bench strength.

A side benefit is that the employees themselves become the teachers, which means that they learn their own jobs better as they teach the process to others.

As a result, Wegmans has extremely low employee turnover: significantly lower than 10% percent in an industry that normally suffers high turnover of about 40% per year.

Colleen Wegman, the current CEO of Wegmans, was asked how she can afford to do so much training in the low margin grocery business. She replied that the money they save by having lower turnover dwarfs the training costs.

Exercise for you: Take stock of how much development you are doing in your organization. Benchmark companies spend more than $1500 per employee and provide more than 50 hours of training each year. If you are doing less, think about increasing that amount.

Every organization I have seen wants to improve employee satisfaction. Managers work feverously on various techniques aimed at making the workplace a better place for the employees.

Not too many organizations recognize that developing people is one of the best and easiest ways to improve employee satisfaction.

Low trust groups think of training in terms of a burden: like compliance with mandated safety training. That mindset is counterproductive and simply overlooks a prime method of creating a great culture.

If you are interested in developing more trust in your organization, consider making larger investments in the development of employees. It is one of the hallmarks of an excellent organization.


The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to

Leadership Mentors

October 30, 2011

In my work, I consult with management and leader groups at all levels in organizations of all sizes and types. We normally think of each group as being unique. They have their own style, idiosyncrasies, type of work, environment, and goals, yet I have found most groups to have many similar aspects.

In any group, you will find a core of dedicated and cooperative individuals who are there to help and earn a living. They have basically the same hopes and dreams, although each one has his or her unique story to tell. Then you have a few superstars who are really trying to get the most out of every experience. They shine above the others in many ways. Finally you have the slackers and trouble makers. Even though their numbers are less than 10% of the population, these people take up roughly 80% of the time of their managers. They often feel that life has dealt them a rotten hand, when it is really their own attitude that is usually causing their misery.

When I meet with a new management team for the first time, the manager often tells me “we’re different here,” and yet when you consider the entire group, despite any other differences, they are usually similar to the pattern I described above. It takes me less than 5 minutes to scope out the distribution for that particular group. Usually it is very close to a normal distribution, but occasionally I will find a group that is either much better or much worse than the norm. For those outlier situations, there is often a relationship between how people are treated and how they react. If people are treated well by leaders, the group will be better than average. If people are misused by leaders, then you find a group with more problems.

The people in a dysfunctional team can be made more positive if the leader finds ways to improve his or her own skills. The good news is that it takes people only a short time to become more motivated. The transformation can take as little as six months. The leader would have culled out the cancerous elements of the team to allow the healthy cells to shine through and work up to potential. The leader would have set up expectations and gained the respect of everyone. Trust would be in evidence every day.

Reverse the situation and put a less-skilled leader in with a high performing team, and the team will lose its edge quickly. People will start acting as if they are playing games with each other, and trust will be reduced. In that environment, some problem individuals will quickly surface to bring down the average performance of the team.

I have seen the above pattern work in both directions so many times over the past 40 years of observation that I am convinced there is a causal relationship. If you look around and see a need for higher quality leaders in your organization, it is costing you plenty.

I believe there is a shortage of excellent leaders, but I also believe with the proper mentoring and support, a majority of professional people have the innate capabilities to become good, if not great, leaders. So what is missing? The real shortage is a lack of mentors for future leaders. Reason: most highly effective leaders are consumed with trying to optimize things in their current environment, and they neglect the activities that would develop other leaders.

If you are not happy with the number of excellent leaders in your organization, ask why there are not more leadership mentors. Get some help to train all leaders not only to be better at their function, but to step up to the challenge of growing other leaders for the future.

Front Line Leaders in a Merger

January 22, 2011

I have been studying the impact of mergers or acquisitions on various stakeholders within organizations. It is impossible to state the impact on everyone in a particular organizational level because of situational and personal differences. It is, however, helpful to think through what a typical person in one level is dealing with even though the exact forces will be somewhat different in each case and perhaps vastly different in outlier circumstances. This article focuses on issues for the first level of supervision in an organization during a merger or acquisition.

In some cases, these leaders are called “group leaders” or “squad leaders;” in others, they are referred to as “supervisors.” There are probably many other names, but for the remainder of this article I will use the word “supervisor.” The common thread is that these people operate at the critical and delicate junction between management layers and workers on the shop floor.

Depending on the type of work being done, these individuals come from a variety of backgrounds. The most typical history is that the supervisor was once a shop floor person who did very well on the job over a long period of time. Eventually this individual was tapped to do the work of supervisor when an opportunity arose.

Another common trait of supervisors is that they are often put in the job with little training. Reason: They already have deep process knowledge and have shown a natural tendency toward informal leadership, so they are given the responsibility with little or no formal leadership training. In most cases it is their excellence at doing the lower level jobs and their process knowledge that enabled their promotion to supervision in the first place.

The attitudes of supervisors during a merger or acquisition are critical to how the shop floor people will react to the change. If supervisors model a cooperative and adventurous spirit and keep looking for the good, it can really help people see that positive outcomes are possible. If the supervisors are rolling their eyes and visibly displaying their own fears, then it is going to be picked up and amplified by people on the shop floor.

In a merger or acquisition situation, the shop floor processes are subject to combinations or modifications in order to accommodate the changing nature of the business. This could be threatening to supervisors, since their license to lead is their familiarity with the work rather than their deep leadership skills. Changing work means their platform to lead has been upset with little warning. Couple that with the inevitable push to reduce supervisory (and all non-direct) headcount, and you have an opportunity for some terrified people in these roles.

I believe the best approach for helping supervisors adapt to the new operating procedures is to have them work intensely with the shop floor people to invent the new combined processes. The involvement will put them in a natural leadership role during a time of significant chaos, which is precisely when a leader’s skill and talent are best developed and tested.

Another way to help these people with the transition is to conduct information sessions with top management just for the supervisors. Of course, they will be part of the general data dissemination program, but their issues and concerns will have a different flavor than other levels, so it is wise to let them vent in a safe environment that is geared for supervisors. You might even want to encourage a kind of support group, because the ability to share experiences during the transition will help ease tensions.

Lastly, if there is time and money available, the transition period is a great time to do some serious leadership training for all levels. This includes the supervisors who may not have received training at the time they were elevated to their job.

A merger or acquisition is a nervous time for everyone in both organizations. Due to the unique nature of their position in the organization, first line supervisors need some special attention in order to help them and the direct workforce cope with the uncertainty and need for change.

Leaders Teaching Leadership

January 9, 2011

I have seen many corporate training applications where top leaders believe stronger leadership is needed throughout the organization’s ranks. They ask the Training Department to develop a leadership development program. Training mangers are not allowed to “staff up” to do the actual training, so they look outside for the faculty to teach various leadership courses. This could be a mistake, because it overlooks the cadre of potential teachers already on the payroll.

For the senior leaders in an organization, the level of involvement in actually helping to train more junior leaders runs the gamut from zero, as described above, to actually doing all of the teaching themselves. Classroom time spent by a senior leader is a sliding scale; what works well in one instance would be a problem in another case. A good benchmark is if the senior leaders do 20% to 40% of the teaching. It is up to the individual leader, along with the development staff or outside consultant, to determine the optimum level of involvement.

I believe higher involvement by senior leaders often leads to better outcomes assuming the top leaders have the credibility and skill to do a good job of teaching lower level leaders. If there are problems at the senior level, then training dollars would be better spent there to make top leaders capable of being credible teachers as opposed to trying to “fix” the lower levels of management with outside canned leadership training.

If you are a leader, you need to make a conscious decision about how much time and effort you will put into the job of training underlings yourself. If you are a training director or consultant, you will need to decide how much you should encourage the senior leader to be involved. There are numerous personal, organizational, and practical factors that go into these decisions.

For example, if the senior leader is cloistered in financial meetings all the time, and the human side of the work is delegated to operations people, having this person do instruction would likely be a poor choice. If the organization is in the middle of a survival crisis or a merger, the top leader may be unable to spare any time for development of underlings. Perhaps the senior leader is just a lousy leader, and it would be foolhardy to have this person teach others how to screw up. Conversely, the senior leader may be outstanding and consider training the next generation of leaders to be his or her highest calling.

Let’s assume the top leadership has built high trust and has the capability to teach leadership in an engaging manner. Under those conditions, there are several advantages to having leadership classes taught by senior leaders:

1. Shows right priority. If the top brass preach that nothing is more important than having great leaders at every level, then they ought to show that with action and their time rather than give lip service to executive development.

2. People pay more attention. If your boss is in front of the classroom, not only does it send a very strong signal about the importance of the training, people listen better because the boss is putting sweat equity into the equation. It is called leading by example.

3. The best way to learn something well is to teach it. If leaders take the time to organize their thoughts about key leadership concepts, they will be more likely to practice the habits themselves.

4. The content is more applicable. The case examples and materials used to teach the lessons are directly applicable to the particular situation managers are facing every day on the job. They are not hypothetical examples brought in by an outside trainer who does not even understand the local jargon.

5. Training your own leaders is uplifting. Taking a personal interest in the development of up-and-coming leaders helps the top brass assess capabilities better and forms a kind of mentoring spirit that is healthy. The caveat here is to avoid being overbearing or intrusive. Young leaders need to experiment with different ideas in safety, so the mentor needs to establish ground rules that ensure a safe learning environment.

6. Control your own destiny. When leaders develop the course content, it will be laser-focused on the local need. If an outside trainer is teaching leadership, it will be less potent and potentially less effective.

7. Those actually in the trench are better at teaching trench warfare. Great leaders have the instincts and knowledge of how to apply concepts in a pragmatic way on the job. Trainers who have not sat in the leader’s chair do not have the in-depth understanding of the realities. They describe the textbook answers that often fall flat in the real world.

These seven reasons are why it is helpful to have leaders be the teachers of leadership. I acquired this tendency myself as I learned that teaching leadership and trust was one of the most important parts of my job as a Division Manager of a large corporation. I gave the activity roughly 30% of my calendar time, and I am convinced it was the best use of my time.

I grant that many leaders would not have the patience or skills required to be good at teaching leadership. Frankly, many leaders do not have the ability to practice what they preach, so their teachings might ring hollow to stronger underlings. This is where the Development staff needs to focus energy. The top leaders need coaching on how to participate in the hands-on work of teaching leadership in their organization. There is plenty of work for consultants to drive this conversion, but once leaders get the idea and have the skills, it is best for them to take their place in front of the classroom.

Several organizations have taken up the banner of having leaders teach leadership. Becton Dickinson is one group that practices this well. There is a good book on this concept by Ed Betof, if you are interested. The title is Leaders as Teachers. It describes the journey at Becton Dickinson and the incredibly positive impact the practice has had on the organization. However, you do not need to read a book on how to practice having leaders as teachers, just advocate it and start doing it. If that seems unlikely in your situation, it may mean that the top leaders in your organization need some remedial leadership training themselves. Spend your training dollars there first.