Leadership and Training: A department head’s view

As a training provider, I have my opinions on how I think leadership and training should be connected.  Is this the same as what a German Dept Head thinks? I was recently fortunate to spend a few minutes with Arnhild Ott, Department Leader of Personnel Development in the Mail division of DPDHL. Here are four questions on leadership and training and her answers.

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What do you wish line managers would understand about training?

Arnhild Ott: I wish that they would understand that training is only one possibility. The most interesting method is to learn on-the-job and that training is only 10% of the learning environment and it’s most valuable in your own business environment. A second point is that every training session needs to be centred on communication between the line manager and their employee. There is a need for a talk before and after the training. And this is very important for the training’s success: that the manager has an important role. A third point is that training is not an incentive; training is for when we have to close a gap between the current knowledge and the expected knowledge in the function of the role.

What will training look like in 10 years’ time?

Arnhild Ott: I expect that training will be more and more virtual, further away from classroom training with more webinars, more on-the-job, smaller pieces of content, or experience. It will be more creative, more integrated in your normal life and business life. It will be more difficult to see a distinction between training and a non-training session as it will be integrated in your business life. In short, small pieces, more virtual and more media-driven.

Can you give me your perspective on current trends in leadership culture?

Arnhild Ott: The world is rapidly changing. Main issues in the leadership culture context are that leadership practice is influenced by globalisation, by the uncertainty of the situation at the moment . You have to act in a more and more complex world. It’s more difficult for each manager to create the future. This is very strenuous for each manager because traditional methods and perspectives don’t help you in these increasingly complex situations. You always need more skills and more knowledge about methods, so as to be able to understand and (re)create complex situations with your employees.

The next point is that you see an increase in burnout; more and more people feeling limited in their competencies, their lives restricted by too much time at work. Everyone is searching for better work-life balance as they have to struggle against complexity. In fact, you see more and more issues of rationalisation. Mostly leaders have to handle more and more uncertainty and ambiguity. These are major challenges for people and especially leaders; everyone needs competencies to deal with uncertainty and unclear perspectives and also to enable them to decide on their own how to act.

Can you give some examples of these competencies?

Arnhild Ott: You need ambiguity. You need more systemic thinking rather than a linear perspective. You need to think from a network perspective- influence between several influences– not a single linear one. You have to combine rational thinking with more intuitive thinking and you have to recognise more and more your own gut-feeling.


A special thanks to Arnhild for taking the time to share her thoughts with us.  What do you think about what she said?  Do you agree?  Let us know in the comments area below.  Also, make sure to check out our methods and tools section to learn more about how companies are approaching their training.

3 replies
  1. Jasper Davis
    Jasper Davis says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post! As a dept head it is one of the important aspects of an organization, the mentioned question and answers are very critical and important regarding leadership and training point of view. Thanks for sharing your views.

  2. James Culver
    James Culver says:

    I agree, especially with the integration of training into the work life with fewer formal training situations as we now experience them. That will make the role of the manager even more important as managers will become trainers and coaches to help employees transfer skills to the workplace.

    Great interview!

  3. Martin Wheeler
    Martin Wheeler says:

    I would like to add my support to what Arnhild Ott when she states, “Training will be more creative and more integrated in your normal life and business life.” I think this trend has already started. The department heads at DPDHL that incorporate language and soft skills development into their employees’ day to day work are the department heads that see the quickest development in their team members. Holding jour-fixes in another language, asking team members to present on behalf of them and even simply speaking in the non-native language of the office; all of these fast-track learning and compliment any fixed training the employee is also taking.

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