What is Leadership Development? 


The primary purpose of any Leadership Development effort is to change and improve the performance of the focal leader. Overall, leadership development activities focus on enhancing the leaders’ skills, abilities, characteristics, and other knowledge areas. Effective leadership skills are important at all levels of the organization and therefore development efforts should focus on all leaders within the organization from first-line leaders up through your C-suite of executives. Although the development process may look different at these various levels, they all have the same goal to make an individual into the best leader possible which helps with the overall performance management process at the company.  

The leadership development process should not be different than any other development process apart from the skills on which to focusSound adult learning principles follow a 70/20/10 development model where 70% of learning/development takes place via on-the-job learning activities, 20% from interactions with others and 10% from formal educationMethods such as formal classroom learning, or role plays, etc. can also be used to develop an individual leader. For leaders, often there are mentors and coaches available to help facilitate the processEspecially at the executive level additional resources should be used to ensure that development and behavior change occurs.  


Why is leadership development important?  


How will a company grow if it is not continuously developing its people? Leadership development is a great way to start this development and help the company thrive. Developing leaders from the top down sends a message to the rest of the organization about the importance of developmentIf your leaders are not willing to develop and can be difficult to work with, why should others in the organization develop. Developing leaders helps establish a culture of development, increase employee engagement and by improving the skills of your leaders you are in turn improving the skills of everyone. Having a strong leadership development program is a win-win for everyone and will help organizations gain a competitive advantage. 


The top 3 reasons why leadership development is important. 


1. You will attract more talent. 

Many individuals today want more than just a nice salary to attract them to a job. They want to know that in that job that there is room for growth. Having a leadership development program will help attract this new talent because it will give them the ability to move forward in a position. Having these tools gives talent a sense of security in your organization 

2. Will help retain and develop internal talent.

This goes hand-in-hand with our first point aboveBy being active in leadership development you can help keep the talent that is currently on your teamIf you ask most people, it is particularly important for them to achieve their career goals. A career goal for many is also becoming a leader in some respect. By introducing leadership development to individuals within your organization they are given an opportunity to grow in a way that coincides with their goals while also helping the organization gain a competitive advantage.  

3. Increase Productivity and Performance

In any organization you want your people to perform at their highest level. By putting together leadership development strategies, you will train your individuals and help them gain skills to work at their highest potential. Having these programs will also help the quality, performance, and productivity of your team because they will want to succeed in the workplace 


What makes a great leader?  


It is important to know what makes a great leader before producing a leadership development plan for your organization. You want to have an idea of the characteristics and skills that a good leader should have and have a way to measure how your team is doing in these key areas. 

Some of the key traits that make a great leader are as follows, communication, respect, attitude, and responsibility to name just a few. When talking about characteristics of a good leader the list could go on forever, but the list below includes some of the most important.  


1. Communication 

Communication is one of the most important characteristics that you can have as a good leader. Communicating includes many different things from being able to talk and articulate your ideas, to listening to your peers, working well in a team environment, showing empathy, to even being able to coach othersIf a leader is effective in all these areas, they will be able to navigate and talk to their team more comfortably. 

2. Respect

We all learned as kids, treat others the way you want to be treated which is the basis of respect. Treating people with respect on a day-to-day basis is a key attribute to what makes a great leader. If you live and treat everyone with respect you are less likely to have conflicts with others and will be more approachable which will only increase the success of the teamorganization or individual.  

3. Attitude

This is an important characteristic because it is the basis on which you are perceived by others. Being a leader, you want your attitude to come across in a certain way. Great Leaders come in with an open-mind and positive attitude. This will show that the leader genuinely likes what he/she is doing and will also make themselves more trusted and liked by their team 

4. Responsibility 

Responsibility is key in what makes a good leader for two main reasons; taking responsibility for your wins and losses. Take this scenario, you are managing a few entry level workers in a position. One of them sent out an email with the wrong date but you also approved it before it went out. As a leader YOU need to step up and take responsibility for this mistake and not put the blame on your team. You also need to take responsibility for all the things you are doing right and innovative ideas you may have and rewarding your team similarly.  


What skills should a leader have? 


Having technical skills in a certain field or profession is important to everyone in the workforce. Along with these technical skills are also some leadership skills that all leaders will want to have. While many companies create a specific competency model for the leadership positions within their own organization there are many trends that have emerged over the years regarding a core set of competencies that all leaders must possess. The following is a sample list of some key leadership competencies along with their definition and some sample behaviors to further describe the skill: 


1. Business Acumen

Understands the organization’s and competitors’ products, consumer trends, and leverages a variety of metrics and business/financial principles to manage customers, solve customer problems, and drive the business. 

  • Stays current on competitor products in customer accounts and the competitive strengths or weakness of their offerings versus their own. 
  • Balances Customer Needs with Business needs 
  • Balances business acumen with technical acumen in making decisions. 
  • Maintains knowledge of customer decision-making processes and balances that with organization needs and goals. 
2. Strategic Perspective (Forward Thinking) 

Actions and decisions that reflect an understanding of, and consistency with, the needs and goals for the organization as a larger enterprise. 

  • Recognizes how decisions will affect the company at an organizational level – sees the “big” picture. 
  • Anticipates/recognizes industry and competitive trends’ impact on the organization, and innovates/adapts processes, products, strategies, etc. to grow the business. 
  • Ensures strategies, metrics, and protocols within own areas of responsibility supports the organization’s goals and strategies. 
3. Results Orientation 

Drives results by defining expectations, holding others accountable, redirecting, coaching, and developing team members. 

  • Sets high performance goals and expectations for others and holds them accountable for results. 
  • Creates and supports an environment that involves challenges and motivates others to excel. 
  • Empowers team members by assigning them specific responsibility and authority. 
4. Communicates with Impact

Conveys information to others in a timely, easily comprehended, and persuasive manner. 

  • Aligns own and team members communications consistent with the organization’s goals and strategies. 
  • Routinely communicates to keep others informed, reinforces strategies, shows appreciation, provides support, etc. 
  • Aligns others through effective stories and words. 
5. Innovation Leadership

Drives self and others to continually reexamine concepts and processes to improve the business. 

  • Creates and supports a culture wherein innovation and appropriate risk taking are expected, and mistakes are viewed as part of the learning process. 
  • Develops and implements new strategies and tactics that improve the business. 
  • Champions a culture of continuous improvement and skill development. 
6. Judgement and Problem Solving

Initiates quality actions to address problems and make improvements. 

  • Identifies underlying causes of problems, rather than just “symptoms.” 
  • Persists and preservers, despite obstacles, to accomplish results. 
  • Readily makes tough decisions and demonstrates little hesitancy to act on meaningful issues. 


How to develop a leader?


One way to help develop a leader is to first figure out their strengths and weaknesses. 360 Feedback is an effective way to measure your leaders’ abilities and figure out what aspects of leadership development would benefit them. Many times the 360 process is the beginning of creating an Individual Development Plan which guides the focal participant in making positive changes in becoming a better leader. 360 surveys are done internally within an organization to anonymously get a measure of success from the people that are working with the focal leaders daily. After going through the 360 process and building out an IDP, executive coaching is the best way to transform leaders into being the best they can be.

After knowing a leader’s strengths and weaknesses the question becomes how do you develop them as a leader? The easiest way to do this is through a leadership development process. There are many programs in place and trainings that are available to help develop a leader. Many of these are trainings, programs, performance evaluations, coaching, team enhancement programs and on-the-job training activities can involve topics such as diversity and inclusion, how to inspire others, conflict resolution, communication in the workplace, and topics on continuing education within focal leader’s particular field. All these programs will not only help leadership development but will also propel your organization forward with people who are top of mind on all these topics. 360 Feedback is a great way to develop a baseline for creating an individual development plan as well as succession planning. 

Overall, leadership development is important for leaders or potential leaders in your workplace or even at home. It can become a part of any level in an organization, and it helps employees enhance their skills and learn new ways to be a better leader. Having the ability to have a leadership development program will propel you forward and give you a competitive advantage over other organizations and lead you to a pull vs. push methodology. 

Related Resources:

Pre-Employment Assessments – Everything You Need to Know

The Ultimate guide to Pre-Employment Screening

360 Feedback – Your Complete Guide

Best Hiring Practices – Top Questions Answered

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