Well, I’ve talked a lot about different learning models and different dynamics in training, as well as how important leadership is. I’ve also shown a lot of empathy to those thrust into leadership roles without their volition, or worse, into training leadership roles as such. But, I’ve not taken the time to really talk about leadership development from any angle, have I? Well, I figure it’s time to rectify that, so how about we talk about it?
Leadership development is actually a few different concepts, depending on the angle from which you approach it. Unlike some terms where the definitions are disparate and parallel, in this case they’re different approaches to a core topical concept.
We’ll be focusing on development in a corporate environment, but that doesn’t mean what you might expect it to. It in fact means that we’ll be talking about ant incorporated business with a staff greater than 50 people, which encompasses small, medium, large and enterprise business environments pretty even-handedly.
Leadership development applies to the cultivation of strengths, skills and relationships that comprise a strong leadership capacity. This can involve establishing a leadership role and relationship with a team for a specific task, development and learning to become a leadership professional long term, or for the training and guidance of subordinates in smaller leadership roles for delegation.
Ultimately, they all boil down to the same thing, but with different scopes and proportions. As such, the advice I’m about to give is independent entirely of which definition you are approaching this from. Isn’t that special?
So, the first thing to consider is the human element. Developing leadership is first and foremost about cultivating people skills, and bonds with the people whom you will lead. This means that a strong sense of empathy, and a strong sense of justice are very important aspects in a leader.
But, there’s a balance to be had here, because while you need to be approachable, trustworthy and very human to those below you, you also must cultivate respect and loyalty from them. This means that you must walk on eggshells in order to ensure no sense of favoritism is ever shown, even mistakenly, in your handling of people. You also must maintain some posture of authority, without it being overbearing.
And this is where development of leadership is the most challenging, and this is the crux of where true skill has to be honed. This balance of amicability, authority and even-handedness is difficult to achieve and can only be obtained through experience. This is not something you can teach or be taught by others, alas.
But, the other big important thing to keep in mind is that people and time are resources. As a leader, you must be able to utilize and budget all resources in the most balanced and efficient way possible, to ensure the accomplishment of the set goals without overextension.
This is something that can somewhat be learned and taught, though again, experience is probably going to be the biggest contributor.
So, leadership development is best learned by doing, and so, anyone who is to be trained for long term leadership should start small, as a delegated leader within a greater unit, with a small number of people below them. As they learn from their mistakes, they do the minimal possible damage this way.