July 4

Leadership Development in Organizations


Leadership Development is a phrase that has become so common that its true meaning has been obscured. Leadership development is not random training sessions, webinars, or conferences. While there is some value in this approach, it is not designed intentionally for the individual leader to grow and develop in a manner that is optimal for them.

The way we look at leadership development starts with a very simple premise...learn to lead yourself well first, then learn to lead others well. At the core of this is internal growth and development for the leader. That means that leadership development is a change process. One with specific goals and measures. So where does it start?


Truly effective leadership development starts with good data. That data can come in many forms. Observation, assessments, 360 assessments, surveys, and interviews. The purpose of these is to gain insight into the individual's current leadership skills, practices, knowledge, and effectiveness. Here are some key questions to answer:

  • How self-aware is the leader?
  • How well do they manage themselves in their role?
  • How effective are they at self-direction?
  • How well do they balance people needs with organizational needs?
  • How well do they balance strategy with operations?
The first three bullet points are internal factors that have a massive impact on leadership outcomes. The last two are external performance measures. The best part of this...all of these can be measured through specific assessments, and even better, these assessment reports provide actionable data. One of the most difficult things to do is create good leadership development KPIs. Having actionable data from validated assessments greatly simplifies this effort.


Now that we have good data, actionable data, we can work with the leader to create a developmental pathway that is designed for the unique needs of them, their role, and their team. Having a good plan, one with measures and time frames, increases the focus and accountability around the development process. Many organizations actually make leadership development KPI achievement a part of the leader's goals and incentive compensation.

Here are some ideas on how to equip leaders:

  • Give them the opportunity to see 360 Leadership assessment results on themselves. This input from those around them (supervisor, peers, direct reports, others) provides excellent insight from different groups they interact with. This data is incredibly valuable for developmental purposes.
  • Coaching. Accelerate the growth and development of your leaders with their own coach. For every $1 our clients spend with us in coaching, they receive between $7-$23 in return.
  • Training. How good are your leaders management skills? Can they create an environment of accountability? Do they know how to hire right? Can they coach and train their people effectively? Do they know how to conduct performance improvement discussions and plans? Training in specific skills is critical to success.
  • Mentor. Provide a mentor for leaders for enhanced growth and development.
  • Resource. Ensure that the leader has the resources they need to do what they need to do.

The key to success when equipping leaders is to create a well considered development plan, get their commitment to invest the time and effort into it, and ensure that there are clear expectations, measures, and time frames that everyone understands.

KEY POINT: Emotional intelligence is the one skill set that is most predictive of success in leaders. This comes from research and many case studies. (see more at www.6seconds.org). Developing emotional intelligence competencies and practices is the one area of leadership development that will have the greatest overall impact...and, it is a skill set that can be learned and developed rapidly.


Now that we have assessed where our leader is and developed a plan for equipping them, we can focus on aligning the leadership development effort to the desired goals and outcomes. Without alignment, leaders may set off on their own direction that diminishes the potential for organizational success. How do we align when it comes to leadership development?

  • Identify the specific areas to develop that will help the leader the most in the short-term.
  • Consider the organization's strategic goals and cascade those down to the specific leader, aligning the leader's goals to the organizational goals.
  • Have the leader create a success pathway for their team and for each individual on their team.
  • Put in place specific accountability practices to ensure success.

You may be thinking, "What does some of this have to do with leadership development?" There are three stages to effective development, Engage, Activate, Reflect.

  1. Engage the leader by showing them the value and vision of growing their leadership capacity and competency.
  2. Activate by designing a development plan, embrace the learning, and then put the learning into practice.
  3. Reflect on what worked, what did not work, and what they can learn from this.

This is actually an iterative cycle that repeats itself over and over. Every time this cycle starts over, new learning and development has happened.

If you want a truly effective and impactful leadership development effort, this approach is a proven method to get the results desired. Like many things in life, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.


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