Leadership development: First Things First

January 16, 2019 by Wally Bock

Leadership development isn’t just for senior managers, and it shouldn’t start in the middle of your corporate org chart. For years, we’ve lavished too much money on senior leaders who don’t need it that much. If we thought about succession planning below the C-suite at all, it didn’t extend very far into middle management, either. The good news is that more companies think their front-line leaders are worthy of developmental attention.

Ron Thomas puts it this way in his article, “Good Managers Aren’t Born, They’re Trained from Day One.” 

“Their first supervisory level is the starting point of development. Understanding team dynamics is a starting point which gives a strong foundation for developing the next level of leaders.”

Kevin Cook, from DDI, suggests that, “It’s time to think differently about your front-line leaders.” He shows why frontline leaders are important and why you develop them. Here’s key quote.

“I see companies who often focus their scarce resources and budgets on their senior levels, and, increasingly, their mid-level leaders, in their efforts to identify and develop strong leaders. But, as they strive to move from good to great, they are sometimes neglecting the start of their leadership pipeline—frontline leaders. The companies I work with who are in it for the long haul, looking for sustained organizational performance, see the importance of the frontline to their success. They spend the time and budget needed to ensure they get the most from these critical leaders.”

But both men miss a key fact.

Leadership Development Starts Before Leadership Development

Human beings learn all the time, and your new employees are no different. Any possible leadership development for them begins with their first experience of leadership in your company. That first boss provides a mental model for them about what is good leadership in your company. That model becomes their set point for leadership development. Make sure those first mental models are good ones. Pay special attention to the men and women you select to lead your newest employees.

Leadership Development Programs Begin with Choosing Wisely

Don’t spray your money and other resources around and pray that they’ll have a good result. Choose people for your development program who are likely to succeed. They should aspire to leadership. And they should demonstrate necessary skills and attitudes. Look for people who enjoy helping others succeed. 

Leadership Development: Training Is Not Enough

Leadership training is necessary, but it’s a small part of leadership development. Help aspiring leaders find mentors and choose role models. Help them through the transition to that first leadership job. Provide opportunities for learning from more experienced peers.

Bottom Line

Leadership development begins long before the leadership development program. Provide good examples of leadership to your newest employees. Develop those with the willingness and demonstrated ability to do the job. Then support them and help them develop resources for critical on-the-job learning.

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

Posted in Leadership Development

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