"I Train Managers to be Good Leaders of People"

by  Mary C. Schaefer  |  Leadership Development

Last night I attended my second Spanish lesson.  During our exercise working out how to say our occupation, I got a real eye-opener.

My instructor is from Columbia and has been living in the U.S. and speaking English for about 20 years.  It took at least 10 minutes of us going back and forth to get to this:  “Yo entreno los gerentes a que sean buenos lideres para las personas.”  (“I train managers to be good leaders for people.”)

At that point, Margarita realized why she and I were having so much problem getting on the same page about what I do, and how to translate it.  When we finally got to, “I train managers to be good leaders for people.”, she responded with, “That can’t be right.  Why do you have to train people who are already leaders to lead people?  Don’t they already know how?  Why would they have been given the job if they didn’t know how?”  All the other North Americans in the room smiled knowingly at each other.

I train managers to be good leaders of people.

It did sound a little silly when she said that.  It made me wonder about underlying assumptions.  Is there a reason managers are not more prepared?  Is that expecting too much?  There are certainly phases of development that leaders could not get to without real experience.

Margarita’s questions make me wonder what I am missing as a leadership educator, because of the assumptions I am making, of which I am not even aware.

What would you say?  Do managers need to be trained to lead?  Or is the “leadership development” world solving a problem that doesn’t exist?  What is your response and why?

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By mary-schaefer
Speaker, coach and trainer Mary Schaefer’s expertise is in creating work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. She is a former HR manager. Find out more about how Mary helps managers empower themselves to make the most of their human resources with this special collection of articles selected for LCG readers:  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

William Powell  |  30 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Great insight Mary. Leadership has two sides to it. There is the pragmatic side that takes care of the tasks at hand, the more administrative/operational element of leading something. Then there is the soft side of interacting with those on your team.

Unfortunately, most of the time people are promoted because they fulfill tasks well, efficiently, and with an attitude of excellence. All great qualities but an extreme leap in logic that their soft skills as a leader are magically intact.

I think we’ve all seen people be promoted to an even higher level of positional leadership within an organization and their soft skills are nothing more than tragic. They “get the job done” and the consequences on a people level become of no consequence at all…or at least an acceptable result of achieving a task.

Existing managers definitely need to be trained to lead and potential managers need to be trained to lead as well. There is a very real problem and helping organizations and individuals learn how lead well and effectively is not only of benefit to that organization, but to their community. Leadership isn’t a tick box laundry list of things to do. It is a philosophy of human interaction that acts as a social lubricant.

Mary C Schaefer  |  30 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Great way to say it, William: “Leadership… is a philosophy of human interaction that acts as a social lubricant.”

Yes, people are often promoted as managers without having developed the leadership skills. And I think sometimes we use the terms casually and interchangeably when they are not. I think that is one aspect that got “lost in translation” between me and my instructor. And still, her response made me think.

Thanks for taking the time to respond. Mary

Sonia Di Maulo  |  04 Oct 2010  |  Reply

Mary, great post! William, great comment!

Stuff that makes you go, hmmmmmmmmm! I coach/train leaders and facilitators. Unless you are wired for leadership, there is much to learn. The real magic however, occurs in the APPLICATION, EXECUTION, and FOLLOWUP of leadership and facilitation tasks. This is the moment when you realize that it’s harder than it looks!

Facilitators are usually selected because they are (1) good with people, and/or (2) knowledgeable in the subject matter. I would apply these same principles for why people are selected for leadership.

There is a real need in supporting the leaders in our organization, not only in training them, but in providing support as they lead.


Julio Vazquez  |  04 Oct 2010  |  Reply

When you think about the word manager, you realize that there’s an explicit meaning that has no flavor of leadership in it at all. Manager has the connotation of handling “things”, which is why it is often interpreted as someone who can complete tasks or handle budgets and resources (yes, including human resources). None of this implies that the person given the position has the ability to deal effectively with people. Finding a leader amongst people who know how to juggle resources is rare.

So, is leadership development needed? Absolutely. The well-rounded manager has to be able to do more than just shuffle cchess pieces; they have to inspire and show through example. When they achieve that balance of leadership and task control, they will excel at all.

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