Leadership Development

What is leadership development?

Leadership development can be defined as an enhancement or expansion of a person’s capability to be effective in a leadership role. Leadership development can also be defined as a process of targeted interventions enhancing the performance and effectiveness of groups, teams, functions, and whole organizations and expanding the collective capacity of an organization to engage effectively in leadership roles and create commitment and alignment necessary to achieve the organization’s vision, mission, and purpose.

Leadership development is often compared to management development – and it is interesting to note that not all leaders are managers, but all managers need to be leaders. Managers manage things, processes, and systems. Leaders lead people. Leadership itself is a process of social influence, aligning and maximizing the efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal. It is not defined by a level or grade or title.

Why is leadership and talent development important?

Leadership and talent development is important for many reasons. It supports organizational transformation and change, so important in today’s environment, by developing the skills, attitudes, talents, capabilities, and behaviors necessary to identify strategic pivots and initiatives and to lead others effectively through transformation. It promotes accountability and people-centered decision making, helping leaders create a culture of engagement and purpose. Leadership team development helps senior leaders create a positive employee experience, enhanced organizational health, and increased employee retention.

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What are the business benefits of management and leadership development programs?

There are a great many benefits! Five of these are:

  • Reduced employee turnover / increased talent retention
  • Building bench strength through succession planning and inclusivity
  • Supporting culture and transformational change
  • Creating a culture of accountability
  • Increased organizational success


Research has shown that people leave managers not organizations. Employee turnover is reduced when leaders know how to create a culture where employees feel seen and heard, have clarity on where they are going, and are challenged and supported. Employees have varying and diverse needs, and organizations need to understand these needs if they are to retain their employees. For example, the percentage of younger people and millennials in the workplace is increasing, and they have different needs and expectations which is, in turn, having a significant impact on organizations now which will intensify as they move into leadership roles.

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A key benefit of leadership development is succession planning, which is identifying and developing a pipeline of future leaders and senior managers that will enable an organization to future proof itself and create a competitive advantage. This increases talent retention as employees have line of sight into their futures. Inclusive succession planning is critical to secure this competitive advantage. Leaders that understand and focus on fairness and take steps to increase diversity have a better chance of attracting and retaining top talent as well as maximizing innovation, creativity, and problem solving. Researchers have repeatedly demonstrated positive business outcomes for organizations with diverse workforces, especially those with diversity within their leadership teams and board rooms.

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  • Leadership development can support culture change and organizational transformation

    As organizations navigate change, leaders need to use their communication skills to ensure followers understand the change, know what they need to do to support it and develop the skills they will need for the future. Leaders need to be role models and create the climate and conditions to enable successful change. This requires leaders to make better decisions, stay connected to their followers, and lead them on the change journey.

  • Culture of accountability

    Effective leadership development helps leaders create a culture of accountability. When leaders are accountable, they own their decisions, and they are willing to answer for the outcomes of their choices, behaviors, and actions. Accountable leaders foster a climate of trust – they don’t blame others when things go wrong, instead they put things right and are willing to learn from their mistakes.

  • Increased organizational success – liberate potential

    John Maxwell’s ‘the law of the lid’ states that the limit of an organization’s leadership capability is the lid of the overall ability of a business to perform. Collective leadership effectiveness and intelligence represent huge untapped potential in most organizations. According to Peter Senge, collective intelligence and performance of most groups is well below the average intelligence and performance of the members. Effective leadership development programs can liberate this potential and increase organizational effectiveness and success.

How do leadership development programs work?

Leadership development is multifaceted and comes in many forms, often beginning with Self-Leadership (self-awareness), expanding to Leading others (building relationships, aligning effort and energy, and mentoring and coaching others), and finally to organization- wide leadership (strategic thinking and future focused change). There are many elements involved, and the focus is on creating specific leadership development goals and designing learning interventions to achieve these, in line with the wider long-term organization’s goals.

Leadership development typically follows the 70-20-10 rule. Individuals learn 70% of their knowledge from challenging experiences or assignments, 20% from developmental relationships and 10% from course work. Vertical learning is the transformation of how individuals think, feel, and make sense of their world. Therefore, in leadership development, the learning is not so much around skills, but transforming the way a leader thinks, which will impact their behavior.

Leadership lessons from the pandemic: the employee’s perspective

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a profoundly challenging experience for everyone, as countries, organizations, and individuals have had to respond to an uncertain, complex, and fast-moving crisis. While everyone has been trying to sail through the storm of the pandemic, people have been on different boats, with varied impact and experiences on their work and personal circumstances.

It required leaders and managers to learn on the fly, navigate through stormy waters,
and adjust course through the ebbs and flows of the crisis. In many ways, amongst all
the pain, sadness, and anxiety that the pandemic has brought, Covid-19 has provided
a very powerful experiential leadership development opportunity.

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