What Is Leadership Development?


Some leaders may be born, but many more are made. And even those with natural characteristics that translate into leadership skills benefit from development through focused training. Effective leadership development combines classroom instruction and reading with on-the-job experience and multi-source feedback.


Leadership development is used to help identify future leaders and to strengthen existing leadership teams. The traditional focus is on developing the aptitudes and attitudes of leaders not just according to the knowledge of individuals, but with the vision of the organization as a whole. Thus, leadership development is also a means of grooming leaders that match well with what the organization's aspirations.


Traditional training of individuals for positions as leaders, which revolves on the personal characteristics of a leader, has been augmented with leadership training that emphasizes leadership as an interpersonal process. Thus, modern leadership development tend to focus on the process of social influence, team dynamics, organizational climate and social networking. Leader development still targets individuals, however, especially in succession planning initiatives.


Motivation to learn, a high achievement drive, openness to experience and self-assessment are all personal characteristics associated with successful leadership. Effective development programs will emphasize these traits through concrete experience, observation and reflection, and the presentation of abstract concepts. Feedback can continue as long as six months or more after formal training. Understand that 360 degree feedback is a highly-regarded technique that gives a developing leader critiques not just from immediate superiors, from peers and subordinates as well.


Leaders set the tone of an entire organization, from providing a public face to the media and setting goals, to setting the tone of business. Leadership development, therefore, shares these important responsibilities to some degree. Managing the company's structure, vision and accountability systems are key areas where leadership and leadership development intersect.


Anyone can increase leadership ability with proper training. One realm where leadership development is taking on increased importance is ethics. The highly transparent and connected global economy leaves the actions and philosophies of organizations to be scrutinized by the media and public. Corporate responsibility is therefore an important element of effective leadership and of leadership development.

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