Leadership development: Find people who want to lead

December 21, 2016 by Wally Bock

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The Harvard Business Review is a respected and valuable publication. The article title, “Your Leadership Development Program Needs an Overhaul,” certainly caught my attention. The opening paragraph was promising.

“Most companies make big investments in leadership development, rolling out intensive internal programs for high potentials, sending key leaders off to expensive executive education programs, or hiring personal coaches for those moving into key positions at the top of the company. But in our experience, this traditional approach to leadership development doesn’t serve the needs of companies anymore.”

But then, a few paragraphs in, I came upon this drivel in an otherwise fine article.

“To identify leaders, start by looking for people who care deeply. Barclays Bank PLC and The Walt Disney Company EMEA are great examples. Both seek to create an environment where employees can pursue innovative business offerings to address problems that are personally meaningful.”

People who care deeply? About what? That question is never answered. Perhaps the authors mean “problems that are personally meaningful.” Anybody can care deeply about things they find personally meaningful.

What I want is leaders who care about accomplishing the mission and caring for their team members. Leadership development is about finding people who may want to do that, helping them decide if leadership is for them, and helping some of them become effective leaders.

Leadership development step one: Find people who are willing and able to lead

Leadership is a kind of work. Start by identifying people who might be interested in doing it and who have the skills that can make them effective.

Leadership development step two: Expose those people to the work of leadership

Leadership work is different from working as an individual contributor. A person can’t know if they like the work unless they can try it. You can’t know if they’ll be any good at the work until you observe them doing it. So, the next step is to expose people with interest and aptitude to leadership work. Some will find the challenges of leadership personally meaningful. Others will not.

Leadership development step three: Develop those who relish the work

Put your resources into helping the willing and able learn to do the work of leadership well. Give them training and coaching and peer support. You want leaders who find leadership work “personally meaningful” and who can do it well.

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

Posted in Leadership Development

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