Silly question you may think. However, let’s explore the piano theme for a few minutes and the point may become clearer?
Let’s say I intend to establish myself as a piano teacher. I want to engage, inspire, and motivate learners to become great pianists. My list of things to do before beginning includes – learn about the theories of music, learn how to read music, understand the technicalities of the piano as an instrument, listen to the greatest pianists and recognise their styles of playing. and perhaps study the acoustics of piano playing in different venues. You will notice that none of this includes actually playing the piano. The question is, would you appoint me as a piano teacher for your children when I know everything about piano playing and pianos but have never played the piano? You might ask the question – “do you play the piano?” However, you might simply assume this was one of my well-developed skills – only to be sadly disillusioned sooner or later!
Cut across to Leadership and ask how you decide who could help your company to develop the leadership skills and capacity of your people. There are large organisations you might select to help – only to find that they put very smart young consultants on your project with little real leadership experience. They may have little credibility and no relevant ‘leadership stories’ to tell. You could decide a university Business School will provide the best support you can get only to find again that you have signed up to a team who know absolutely everything about the many theories of leadership but much less about how to put it all into practice. Could this be why we have such a large and ongoing gap in many organisations between knowing all about leadership theory and applying this at the ‘sharp end’?
If you want to engage, inspire and motivate your leadership learners might it be useful to check whether your consultant has enough skill, experience and understanding of the challenges faced by learners when putting new leadership skills to work in the real world. Would that not help to support your people more? In other words, can your consultant play the piano well enough to meet your training needs?