What A Leadership Development Program Should Teach


I’ve had the opportunity to build leadership development programs for many different kinds of organizations and occasionally I get asked about the most important things that a leadership development program should focus on in order to get results.  Many programs feel good to the organization, because they are doing something for their leaders, but they may not drive results.  There are some concepts that I have found are part of the most successful programs.

The biggest shift in thinking that people have to make to become great leaders is that their individual success only happens through the success of others.  It’s often challenging when we promote rugged individualists into a role where they can no longer achieve success by what they do themselves, but now have to depend on what others do to achieve their own leadership goals.  Many of these people have been rewarded all their life for standing out from a crowd and excelling compared to  others.  Now they must lead some of the very kinds of people that they typically leave in the dust become more successful.  It’s a very challenging transition and the best development programs help people make it happen consistently.

You can’t outwork lack of commitment

Leadership truly is about working differently, not working harder or directly accomplishing more.  A leader’s job is to be a catalyst for creating commitment and engagement in a team of people.  That requires a different approach with different individuals and a better understanding of human dynamics than most people possess.  Repeating processes with more effort, but without a sense of emotional intelligence, simply won’t make a difference.  This now becomes a thinking person’s game and up until this point we might have created a picture of success that is related more to effort than it is to understanding.  That’s a change that all great leaders are able to make.

The stage can be lonely

As a leader you are always on stage.  You are being watched, talked about, summed up, and otherwise evaluated any time you are working or around people you work with.  The moment you think that you can make rules you don’t follow or have expectations for others that you don’t have for yourself, you begin to inhibit your ability to lead.  People expect leaders to set an example with their level of focus, discipline and commitment.  Waiver in any of these and we give permission to everyone on the team to waiver too.  This is not about having all the answers, in fact no one likes a leader who believes they do, it’s about having a level of engagement that other people work harder to emulate and that raises the bar for how the team delivers results.

Leaders build sustainable success

Leaders whose team’s would crumble if they left, have done a disservice to the organization they work for.  The team must evolve from a group of people that works hard for their leader, to a group of people that works hard because of who their leader helped them become.  There are countless stories of those charismatic, infectious leaders that people followed no matter what hill needed to be taken and yet when that leader moved on, they either followed him or her somewhere else, or they fell to a lower level of success themselves.  Our job as leaders isn’t about helping people follow us, it’s about helping others lead themselves and eventually, lead others as well.

If you are putting a development program in place in your organization there is certainly a place for things like how leaders manage time, conduct meetings and execute the daily needs of the enterprise.  If you really want to create leaders who can take your business to the next level though, you have to help them think differently about leadership and become someone who creates capability in others, not just demonstrates their own.

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