Leadership Effectiveness Can’t Be Improved by Peer Groups

by  Michael Beck  |  Leadership Development
Leadership Effectiveness Can’t Be Improved by Peer Groups

Although peer groups can be extremely useful, they aren’t very good at helping leaders improve their competencies. Groups can help spur strategic thinking, offer some perspective, and provide the opportunity to help others. But they can’t develop leadership effectiveness. Here’s why…

Leadership Competencies are Developed, Not Trained

The first issue relates to the fact that leadership competencies are developed, not trained. It takes regular focus to break ineffective habits and form new, effective ones. Meeting once a month in a round-table setting with big-picture discussions just can’t address someone’s specific development needs.

Peer Groups Don’t Assess Strengths and Weaknesses of Individuals Well

The second issue relates to assessment. Peer groups aren’t designed to assess the leadership strengths and weaknesses of individual members. That, coupled with the fact that most of us are poor at assessing the quality of our abilities, makes leadership development in a peer group pretty much impossible. (A good example of how poor we are at self-assessment is the fact that I’ve never met an executive who thought they were a poor leader. Yet, we all know executives who ARE poor leaders!)

Blind Spots are an Issue

The third issue relates to blind spots. We all have them regardless of experience, intelligence and/or education. Peer groups can help point out strategic blind spots, but aren’t very good at pointing out leadership blind spots. It really takes someone working closely, one-on-one with a leader to identify them and bring them to light.

The Challenge of Improving Personal Productivity

A fourth reason that peer groups aren’t effective at leadership development relates to personal productivity. Group discussions can be good for high-level topics pertaining to business strategies, but they don’t lend themselves to improving day-to-day functioning. Leaders need objective input from someone who has insight into how they function at work.

Executives Need Unbiased Confidants

And a fifth issue in which peer groups fall short with respect to leadership development relates to the need for an executive to have an unbiased confidant – someone with whom they can vent, admit fears and insecurities, and generally open up to. A peer group setting is simply inappropriate for that.

Finding the Best Course

What then, is the best course of action for leadership development? It used to be mentoring by fellow executives – getting insights and guidance from someone in the company who could share the benefit of their years of experience. Unfortunately, because of cost-cutting and increased work load, those days are gone.

Instead, most executives turn to executive coaching to provide the assessment, insight, and guidance needed. Peer groups have their place, but for personal development, one-on-one work is the most effective.

If you’d like help in developing your leadership effectiveness and would find a confidential sounding board useful, please give us a call at 503-928-7685.

Has a peer group played a role in your leadership journey? If so, tell me about it in the comments!
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About The Author

Articles By michael-beck
Michael has held a variety of top executive positions in his career across a broad range of industries. He also spent several years overseas as a Business Advisor to a member of the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. His credentials include an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of Business along with degrees in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mike Kleis  |  13 Dec 2016  |  Reply

Hi Michael
Not sure what your experience with peer groups is but in leading peer groups I find executives utilize them for different needs and generally get out what they focus on and invest in. For some they are more than comfortable being extremely vulnerable and get very candid insights from peers on a variety of topics including leadership development. I can point to specific executives who have transformed the way they lead based on the education and insights from their peer group.

Keep writing as I enjoy your perspective


Michael Beck  |  15 Dec 2016  |  Reply

Hi Mike,
I have facilitated a number of peer groups over the years. And I agree that they can be useful for an executive. Most of the issues I’ve seen addressed were related to business or people strategies.

The challenge with leadership development is that most of us are blind to what’s not working. Therefore, an executive is not likely to bring the issue up to a peer group because they’re not even aware of it.
Thanks for your perspectives on this!

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