Absurd!: Leaders Cannot Be Trained, but They Can Be Educated

by Ron Potter

“Training leads to development of skills and techniques…Education on the other hand, leads not to technique but to information and knowledge, which in the right hands can lead to understanding, even to wisdom. And wisdom leads to humility, compassion, and respect—qualities that are fundamental to effective leadership.”

I like the word develop rather than education but I believe the principle is the same. Early in my consulting career, I wanted to teach leaders everything I had learned. I figured out very quickly that I couldn’t teach anyone anything, all I could do was to help them learn. The only thing they would learn was what they were ready to learn and what they wanted to learn. Beyond that, I couldn’t teach them anything.

New or prospective clients wanted me to provide an outline of my “training program.” I often had a hard time explaining that I didn’t have a program, we would figure out what the leader or team needed at that moment and would learn it together. Farson says is well: “Training makes people more alike. Education, because it involves an examination of one’s personal experience in the light of an encounter with great ideas, tends to make people different from each other. So, the first benefit of education is that the manager becomes unique, independent, the genuine article.” They develop integrity. They lead from who they are. Farson further says: “Managers can gain better self-understanding, learn about their own interpersonal selves, their reactions to and the impact on others, prejudices and blind spots, strengths and weaknesses. A better understanding of themselves and of their feelings gives all managers added trust in their perceptions, reactions, impulses, and instincts.

The following are words that appear in this blog. Go back and read them again with thought and reflection. There’s a lot of buried treasure in these words.

Wisdom leads to:


Managers [Leaders] become:

Leaders are not alike. They are unique and whole.

I’m continuing my series on an in-depth look at a wonderful little book that’s twenty years old this year. The title is Management of the Absurd by Richard Farson. You may want to consider dropping back and reading the previous blog posts about ABSURD! I think it will put each new one in great context.

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