Leadership Development – what exactly does that mean?

Leadership Development is all the buzz right now in many companies.

On Google, a quick search for that exact term lends “about 394,000,000 results (0.24 seconds)” and on Amazon it results in 34,975 titles. Wow. That’s a lot!!!

So, what does that mean exactly? Like a great professor I had in B-school taught me to say, “it depends.”

It depends on where you are in life. It depends on what your needs are at the moment. It depends on the person you ask. It depends on what you know. It depends on what you don’t know.

I’d love to answer the question, but I don’t know all those things about your situation right now so let’s tackle a couple of the basic premises behind leadership development.

1. Development means you’re moving forward.

No matter where you are in your career, you probably need leadership development. Often we think of leadership development that’s needed for the C-suite (VP/CEO/Board of Dir) but we don’t consider the everyday learning needed for lower level managers as leadership development on the same level. I’d argue that the leadership development that happens on these lower levels is MUCH more critical to a person’s success than anything they learn at the top.

Sure, the decision may affect more people when you’re at the top, but any structure is only as strong as its foundation. What people learn at the foundational levels will only be amplified as they elevate through an organization. That said, you should work twice as hard to make sure the foundation is right.

2. Development means there’s something to develop.

I’m asked often how a person can be a leader if they’re not a manager. Simple. John Maxwell says “Leadership is Influence: nothing more, nothing less.” If you have influence, you’re a leader. If you’re a leader, you have influence. Whether it’s influencing your family, a little league team, or the sandlot bunch of misfits you manage at the office, leadership is present…good or bad. Either way, you should be trying to develop it within yourself.

3. Development leads to more questions than answers.

The more I know about any subject, the more I realize I don’t know. The best leaders in the world are not the ones barking orders. They’re the ones asking the right questions and inspiring their followers to do the same.

What makes your group strong? What’s their biggest weakness? What kind of plan do we have in place for X? Who out there knows more than I do about Y?

Keep asking questions. When you think you know enough, realize you’re more lost than you’ve ever been…

Those are just a few of the things I’ve noticed in leadership development. What do you see out there around this topic?

What’s your plan for your own leadership development? What do I not know?

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