How to foster leadership development in the corporate world

leadership development leadership training

“Are you born a leader or do you become one?” This is a question that is a bit oversimplifying and has many meanings. Is it possible that some people are born with certain leadership characteristics… the answer is yes! So, following this logic, there should also be people who do not have these innate leadership characteristics.

And here’s what encouraging… You need to know who in your workforce has the innate qualities to benefit from leadership development! And it’s not necessarily because they are great born leaders, but because they have potential, that can be tapped.

Here are a few tips to foster leadership development in your organization!


Leadership development: a matter of natural assets

On the one hand, we can try to develop or “create” leaders to some extent, but the natural reflexes of these people will always come back to haunt us. Thus, by taking on a leadership role, those people for whom it is less natural to be leaders will feel as if they are swimming against the tide, which does not make happy and healthy leaders.

On the other hand, some people will not be the first leaders that come to mind by nature, but they may have certain predispositions to be “leaders in the making”. They are born with the foundation for leadership but they must be “developed” or “transformed” to become true leaders.

Be sure to consider this notion of primary importance to foster leadership development in business!

It’s not who or what, it’s WHY!

Are you preparing a succession plan? Are you promoting someone? Or do you just want to promote leadership development because there is a lack of initiative, direction and vision in your company?

Either way, you need to identify why you want to embark on this adventure, because if you know what you want to achieve, it will be much easier for you to determine how to prepare and what the desired outcome is. Defining the “why”, the reason you want to encourage leadership development, will give you a specific objective, a goal to aim for throughout the process, and will help you recognize when you have achieved your goal.

A leader here, a leader there?

Throughout my journey, I have asked many people to define what leadership is, and while many skills are similar, each answer was unique depending on what people first pointed out or noted.

Of course, being competent in conflict resolution, challenging others and taking initiative are common examples of what it takes to be a leader, but the style of leadership and how these competencies are practiced may differ depending on the organizational culture.

So I ask you to reflect not only on your definition of leadership but also on your organization’s definition of leadership. This will encourage others, as they will have a better understanding of the behaviors you are looking for, which will lead to a more accurate leadership development plan.

Are there real leaders in the room?

You just can’t look at everyone, even if you try to encourage leadership development. Because we need effective people who can follow through just as much as we need good leaders. Investing time and energy in the wrong people can be very costly. So how can we make a difference?

You may be familiar with the thought: “You manage things, you lead people” (Grace Hopper, Admiral of the U.S. Navy). Many people think there is a difference. A leader might be more inclined to innovate while a manager might be more inclined to manage. One might stimulate while the other controls. There are many views on the difference between what makes a good manager and what it takes to be a good leader. So think about your definition of a true leader and that of your organization.

Next, look at your human capital and discover which employees have the natural reflexes to take on this role. I’m talking about leadership predispositions or personality traits that come more naturally to some people than others. And if you develop these characteristics, they have great potential for success.

But who are these people? You may not even have considered them yet because they are less demonstrative. Or maybe they’ve already stood out among their counterparts.

In any case, give your employees a psychometric test to discover their strengths and learn:

  • whether they have the foundation to follow a good leadership development plan;
  • if they are motivated to take the risk and are ready to receive that promotion or new position of authority;
  • whether they are resistant enough to the pressure to focus and handle the pressures inherent in the leadership role;
  • how to establish a leadership development plan consistent with their specific needs.

Promote leadership development, not leadership training

There is an article in Forbes which discusses the difference between leadership training and leadership development, and reveals that while leaders may not appreciate receiving “leadership training”, they will readily accept “leadership development” and even be more motivated.

A few reasons are cited: leadership training is based on standards and best practices, focuses on the present, is transactional, and is focused on the known. Leadership Development, on the other hand, is about going beyond standards, is future-oriented and maximizing potential, is transformational, and explores the unknown.

The author of the article says that we should not train leaders, but coach, mentor and develop them. We should get rid of having leaders fit into the same mold to maintain the status quo; instead, we should promote a unique development, designed for one person.

If that doesn’t promote leadership development, I don’t know what will!

So, before investing time and energy in leadership development, start by identifying your goal to establish a specific objective, having a better understanding of what leadership is for your organization, discovering who has the natural reflexes to maximize potential, and promoting development rather than training.

If you haven’t considered these aspects of leadership development, it’s never too late!

Published by Dave John

Decade of work experience in leadership consulting with strong focus on talent acquisition & assessment across different industries and geographies.

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