Leadership development: different folks for different strokes

October 5, 2016 by Wally Bock

Leadership development is what we do to make sure that our companies remain competitive far into the future. A key part of leadership development is sorting out the potential of different leaders.

That’s the subject of an excellent Harvard Business Review article by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic titled “What Science Tells Us About Leadership Potential.” There’s plenty in the article to set you thinking, but here’s something that jumped out at me.

“How will the person lead? Not everyone leads in the same way. Leadership style is largely dependent on personality. Ambitious, thick-skinned leaders tend to be more entrepreneurial, so they are focused on growth and innovation. Curious, sociable, and sensitive leaders tend to be more charismatic, though charisma often reflects dark side traits, such as narcissism and psychopathy.”

Yes, it’s true that different people will lead differently. It’s also true that leaders have differing aptitudes for different situations.

Leadership development: different folks for different strokes

There is no generic “leadership” ability. All leadership is situational. Remember Ron Johnson? He was a star heading up Apple’s stores and a disaster at JC Penney. Did he have less leadership ability after he left Apple? Probably not.

Or remember Bob Nardelli? He was a star at GE, one of three executives competing to replace Jack Welch as CEO. He was a top performer for GE’s aircraft engine business but not for Home Depot where he became CEO.

Leadership development challenge: help people learn what they’re good at

One of the biggest leadership development challenges is also one of the least talked about. Part of the development job is helping people learn what they’re good at. It’s about helping them identify the kinds of situations where they’re most likely to succeed, as well as developing the skills they need.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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