Are You More than 50 Miles from Home?: Outsourcing Leadership Development

Reagan era politician and well-known political strategist Edwin Meese is famous for saying the following:

“An expert is somebody who is more than 50 miles from home, has no responsibility for implementing the advice he gives, and shows no sides.”—Edwin Meese

Sage wisdom, and it’s even truer today for leadership development.  Why?  Let’s break it down.

More than 50 miles from home:

Our brains crave novelty.  If you want to introduce novelty to an individual (aka leader) or a group of leaders, it’s quite helpful to bring them a truly novel voice with perspectives that aren’t bogged down with local traditions and expectations.  Someone coming in from the outside isn’t shackled with haunting feelings about recent quarterly failures or some arbitrary hurdle everyone consistently trips over. When you bring in leadership development from the outside, novelty stimulates innovation—for individual leaders, key teams within the system, and for the system as a whole.

No responsibility for implementing the advice:

While good coaches are there to support the implementation, their support isn’t fazed by any follow-up work they may have to do.  Most of us reading this blog can think about groups we’ve been part of wherein we’ve had an idea for improvement that may or may not have served us individually.  It might have created more work or somehow diminished our team or department—even if it was the right thing to do.  Leadership development from the outside isn’t fazed by these challenges and will proport the best advice in the name of growth.

Shows no sides:

Have you ever had a boss who tells you with good intention that you are welcome to share “anything you need” with them?  They continue, “Be honest with me.”  While honesty and transparency are required of any well-run organization, many of us are hesitant to share our most glaring weaknesses with those who supervise us. Therefore, if you outsource your leadership development efforts, you are far more likely to get participants to be truly honest about the things they need to do to grow. Therefore, they are far more likely to reach those growth aspirations.

Two more good reasons to travel 50 miles or more for outside leadership development:

Now more than ever

With 3D printers cranking out parts for NASA and threatening to someday generate human organs, it’s clear that technology is the great equalizer.  Tools today that could have cornered the market exist in your phone. And in everyone’s phone, which levels the playing field.  This is why leadership is more important than ever today. If virtually everyone has access to jaw-dropping tools that can solve almost any problem, what’s the differentiator in every business? Now, more than ever, it’s leadership. The success in any organization is driven by the energy, capacity, and imagination of its leaders. Therefore, there’s nothing more important to your business or your organizational endeavor than to invest in the leadership capacities of those in key leadership positions.

Things keep evolving

With four leadership books published every day, there’s no shortage of thoughts about leadership. More than that, we are learning more each year about what it takes to stimulate creativity within others. As a result, leadership training and coaching keeps changing as well. Does it take a different kind of leader to innovate in a world where everyone’s connected versus the world where we work in isolation? Of course. Decades ago, leaders strived to maintain compliance. Today, they need both compliance and creativity. Does it require a different leadership approach? Once again, the answer is a resounding yes.


50 miles.  How far are you willing to travel to learn the key leadership skills and strategies required to grow?  Indeed, leaders need to keep growing from within.  But going out and getting a great leadership coach, or getting some quality outside leadership training, will result in leaders who are more motivated, have better skills, and are ultimately ready to innovate for exceptional results.

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