Leadership development and risk

August 9, 2017 by Wally Bock

Leadership development is risky

Most people seem to think that the job of developing aspiring leaders is a boring, administrative function. It can be, of course, but if it is, you can bet that not much development is happening. Here’s what Julie Winkle Giulioni has learned from successful leaders.

“My ongoing research with senior leaders in 25+ organizations across the U.S. paints a compelling yet simple picture of the most effective leadership development strategy. When asked how their own managers or mentors helped them to grow the most, the number one response from executives is some permutation of “they took a risk on me,” with more than 90% of those polled citing this as a pivotal development experience.

These executives talk about being thrown in “beyond their depth,” left to “figure it out themselves,” and forced to “sink or swim.” Many of these stories have happy endings, with the leader emerging from this trial by fire successful and triumphant. More often, the stories involve mistakes, setbacks, and even high-profile failure. Yet, these more challenging endings invariably launch additional stories of trust, hard conversations, candid feedback, and support.”

That’s anything but safe. Aspiring leaders risk failure, embarrassment, and negative career consequences. Companies risk failure, crushed morale, and, sometimes, loss of revenue or market share. Julie’s article contains ways to deal with all this when you’re assigning a risky developmental challenge. Here ae some of my thoughts.

Leadership development to balance risk and reward

Take the time to prepare the aspiring leader for the assignment. Make sure he or she understands the potential risks and rewards. Clear-eyed enthusiasm is the goal.

Devote lots of time to assessment and coaching along the way. The objectives are to have the aspiring leader succeed and grow while achieving a win for the company.

Maximize the learning with debriefing and reflection. Make this a growth experience no matter how it turns out.

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

Posted in Leadership Development

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