Leadership Development

Defining leadership development.


If development is a process that creates growth, progress, or positive change, then leadership development refers to activities that improve the skills, abilities, and confidence of leaders. It is a practice that organizations use to develop leaders who can achieve organizational objectives and take over positions when they become vacant.

Leadership matters.


Leadership is a key ingredient for organizational success. After all, leaders hold the greatest power in an organization – and the biggest expectations. Voltaire, the 18th century Enlightenment philosopher, famously said that “with great power comes great responsibility.”  So go your leaders, so goes your organization.

How then does an organization make sure that it has good leadership in place and is effectively operating? Do we search for those leaders and then hire them? Do headhunters recruit them? Do boards select them? And then, finally, do employees recognize them as such and willingly follow them? Does this sound like an ideal leadership strategy? Probably not, but it’s one we persistently follow. “Maybe this time it will work,” we tell ourselves after the next hire or promotion. There is a better way. What if, instead, organizations cultivate and nurture good leaders from within the organization, giving these individuals the right opportunity to grow and to thrive? Sounds simple and like something every organization should do, right? After all, leadership development should provide programmatic assurance that our organizational leaders are progressing along a pathway to improve the skills, abilities, and confidence needed to lead.

But does leadership development matter?


What prevents organizations from choosing a better method than just trying to find the “right people?” It’s a vexing question, as most organizations agree that leadership training and development is needed, while the research paints a different picture in terms of follow-through behavior. A recent study by CareerBuilder shows that 58% of managers said they didn’t receive any management training. Translation: the majority of leaders were promoted because they were good at what they did, not necessarily good at making the people around them better. The reality of this statistic? Your organization has a lot of leaders who aren’t trained to lead. But you hired the best people, right? According to the Gallup Organization, about one in ten people actually possess the talent to lead others. Gallup further found that organizations fail to choose the right candidate for the job 82% of the time. Only 82% of the time! Part of that rationale is that organizations want to ensure they don’t lose technical experts to other organizations.

Promoting leaders prematurely.


Often, in our organizations we promote the best doer to be the leader of the other doers. But often we haven’t told them:

  1. Your job has fundamentally changed
  2. You need to build more great doers
  3. You need to build more leaders

Worst yet, most organization don’t give leaders the training they need to do their new job. In so doing, many organizations promote prematurely. And a lot of organizations repeat this error during the life-cycle of a leader as they are promoted into positions of greater responsibility.

Develop better leaders, retain more employees.


The Saratoga Institute reports the research finding that 79% of people who quit their jobs cite “lack of appreciation” as their reason for leaving. The conclusion seems obvious: people don’t leave companies, they leave leaders.

Furthermore, recognition is the number one thing employees say their leader could give them to inspire them to produce great work. Research shows that when it comes to inspiring people to be their best at work, nothing else comes close. Not higher pay, not promotions, not autonomy, not training. Committing to better leadership drives significant results. Organizations with great leaders, on average, produce 147% higher earnings per share than their competitors.

Given the necessity of leadership training, why don’t more organizations develop their leaders? This can be summed up in one simple conversation:

  • CFO to CEO: what if we invest in people and they leave?
  • CEO to CFO: what if we don’t invest in our people, and they stay?

A better way to develop great leaders.


So, what might a better path to leadership look like? And how does one move out along it? A leadership strategy should be able to chart this leadership development journey and to apply the right resources at the right time to create the right leaders.But a leadership strategy must get implemented in order to be effective. As we progress along this trajectory of leadership, we move from a conceptually sound leadership strategy to an equally feasible and scalable leadership development program.

This leadership development program should consist of key elements that accelerate one’s emergence as a leader. The best programs are carefully conceived and well-constructed approaches that allow leadership to assume highly personal expressions. This typically includes such key elements as leadership training and individualized leadership coaching.

Building a leadership development program.


Successful leadership will touch the lives of people in important and valuable ways. Businesses are typically goal oriented and likely to measure success with financial metrics like sales and profit. But too often people get shuffled and sorted to serve the ends of a larger business model. What if we started instead with the principle that Everybody Matters? Then the leader articulates a clear and compelling vision in which the business model is not an end in itself, but serves a more important and motivating purpose: to foster personal growth. This potentially changes everything. What if we begin, not with management by objectives, but with management based on trust? When this happens, the work environment is opened to new and exciting possibilities. This improves corporate culture

When people matter, work matters.


The principle that Everybody Matters is an important assertion of the dignity and worth of our team members. But it is also an assertion that the contributions people make in their respective roles are likewise meaningful. Great leaders enable and expect teams and individuals to do great things. People want to have meaningful work. And when people achieve significant results they develop a sense of pride and confidence. People are energized, and work can even become fun. Success becomes contagious.

Do the right thing, do things right.


Honest communication that’s maintained in a positive and upbeat atmosphere can create a sense of new possibilities. It can also establish a dynamic environment that nonetheless remains stable and safe because an authentic feeling of comraderie unites co-workers up and down the line. Effective leadership has a clear ethical dimension. Good leaders treat people well: communicating expectations; supporting them in their work; and providing opportunities to develop as successful people. Good leaders compensate their people fairly, even generously as the situation allows. As Sir Richard Branson said, “train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”