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chairman, Learning and Performance Institute

In his first column for TJ Don asks “Where are our next learning leaders coming from?”

Donald H Taylor c

ould you describe what you do in three words? Recently, I heard Sa-

rah Lindsell, PwC’s Head of Global Learning Technologies do exactly that. Half a dozen of us were having breakfast at Simpson's-in-the-Strand in London, sharing our thoughts on learning with a guest from over- seas, in town for a few days. We were discussing the future

of work against the backdrop of Simpson’s oak panelling and sub- stantial fare when she dropped her three words into the conversation. Two things struck me immediate-

ly about what she said. Te first was that there was no fanfare or build up. She’d obviously considered the matter, reached her conclusion about what she did and was simply presenting her conclusions as fact. Te other was that it was completely different to what most people would probably have said.

people are notorious for making poor sales managers. Te skills of striking and closing the right deal do not over- lap much with the ability to keep your team focused and servicing customers. And sales people often like to be liked – a luxury that managers cannot afford. In L&D we have a similar problem. Te better a practitioner, the more likely he or she is to have deep skills that will be of little use in leadership. People are often drawn into the profession because they have great design or presentation skills, and sometimes simply because they know a lot about a particular topic. None of this helps much in leading a diverse team for a demanding employer. Yes, to be sure, a leader in any field needs to be familiar with his or her domain. Alexander the Great, it was said, was more an expert than any of his warriors in his use of spear and sword, but it was his understanding and application of strategy that made him a great general. L&D needs good gen-

Leading is very different to doing. Sadly, the skills we need as leaders are seldom the ones we use in our daily professional practice

“My job is to inspire and negotiate,”

she said. And the conversation continued. Te phrase struck me vividly.

How many people in learning and development would be so succinct? And how many would choose those words or something like them – words with no reference to cours- es, materials or even learning? And yet, of course, she was exactly

right. Leading is very different to do- ing. Sadly, the skills we need as leaders are seldom the ones we use in our daily professional practice. Tis is by no means unique to L&D. Good sales

erals right now, and some- times I wonder where they will come from. Te speed and manner of business is changing. Te profession needs smart, agile leaders capable of balanc- ing conflicting demands within organisations, while delivering value for them by thinking ahead. Deep specialist skills in course design or classroom delivery will be of limited use to these learning leaders; being able to ‘inspire and nego- tiate’ will be essential.

Donald H Taylor is a 25 -year veteran of the learning, skills and human capital industries. Follow him on Twitter @DonaldHTaylor

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