What is Leadership Development?

What is Leadership Development?

A lot has been written and said about ‘leadership development.’ There are no less than 120,000 texts and books on the subject. Nearly 3,000 titles get added to the numerically imposing list every year. And we haven’t even factored in the tens of thousands of case studies, white papers, academic and research articles that have leadership development as their central theme.

With so many people working with leadership development, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are several definitions of the term. Through our extensive experience in leadership programs and interactions with clients, we have come to subscribe to the following definition of leadership development: Leadership development is any activity that aims to enhance the quality of leadership in a person or an organization. This can be any exercise ranging from MBA-styled programs at your business school to executive retreats.

Individual Leadership Development

Traditional leadership development programs focus on developing leadership attitudes and abilities of individuals.

Just as not everyone is born with the ability to act like Al Pacino, play soccer like Pele, or sing like Frank Sinatra, few of us are natural or born leaders. Various personality traits and qualities may aid or hinder an individual’s effectiveness as a leader. However, it’s possible for everybody to develop their leadership skills to become competent or even great leaders. Such development requires hours of practice and a good deal of perseverance.

Conventional classroom-style training with associated reading helps individuals learn about what effective leadership entails, but isn’t the ideal way to develop leadership qualities in people. Numerous studies indicate that the only 15 percent of the learning imparted in classrooms is retained by individuals at the workplace.

A leadership development program’s success is determined by the following three variables:

  • Characteristics of the learner
  • Nature and quality of the program itself
  • The support of the learner’s supervisor in their effort to become a better leader

Some of the personal traits and characteristics that are commonly identified with successful programs to develop leadership skills are: desire to learn and improve, drive to achieve, openness to new experiences, and self-restraint.

Incorporating below points in the program’s design can result in better leadership development within individuals:

  • The program should integrate an assortment of leadership experiences spread over the course period. From executive coaching, mentoring, reflective journaling, to 360 degrees feedback, the learner should be exposed to a wide variety of experiences in different settings.
  • It’s important that goals are set at the outset and appraisals done regularly of key leadership facets to check on the progress made.

A good leadership development program for individuals should help them develop plans to gain leadership skills necessary for roles and responsibilities from college environment to corporate world.

Collective Leadership Development

While individual leadership training develops leaders, collective training aims higher to develop a team of leaders. In organizations its collective leadership that often holds the key to success and growth. By strengthening links between different leaders in an organization and properly aligning systems within which they operate, it’s possible to develop leadership that is more widespread and effective.

Collective leadership development builds on personal leadership attitudes and skills of participants to help them grow leadership competencies essential for working together and moving forward as a team. The development program should focus on interpersonal connections between team members, and keep in mind the unique traits of the organization and learners.

A company’s employees are widely regarded as its most important resources. Developing leadership across teams is one of the better ways to enhance the skills of employees and effectively address the issue of developing your company’s resources.

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