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Exploring leadership development

Posted: 01 Aug 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:career? leadership? management? hr? employee?

We hear a lot these days about "leadership development." The key comparable themes in the past have been career or management development. Both these concepts continue to exist of course, but is being subsumed by the need for corporations to work from the biggest of big pictures, which is required in a competitive world. The detail and efficiency of particular processes only become important in relation to the whole, so why not focus on the highest level so that the rest will more automatically fall into place?

Career development is primarily an individual rather than a corporate concern, except in so far as it supports organizational needs. To discuss a company's development program in isolation is to confuse developing potential for organizational purposes with sloppy language. Career development in this context is inevitably uneven and possibly exclusive simply because a company has no need to develop everyone. Similarly, management development focuses on the grooming of functional professionals into competent managers, but it does not attempt to create leaders to carry the organization forward into an uncertain and demanding future.

Leadership development is, by definition, a corporate program owned at the top of a company, where its success or failure rests with an organization's senior executives. Like many other aspects of people management, active engagement of the line is a prerequisite. The heart of a disciplined approach is the integration of line managers in capability assessment. In the end, line managers are the ones who best know the requirements of the business and hire its employees. Their judgment, when maturely applied, brings enormous credibility to a leadership program. HR's role is to support line management with professional approaches, standards, assessment techniques and challenging questions.

Even when leadership development programs are not widely publicized, there is a great deal that individuals can do to influence recognition. If we have the desire to lead and can lay claim to having a history of producing outstanding results, then demonstration of other appropriate characteristics is obviously essential. These characteristics may vary slightly from one company or situation to another based on the nature of the enterprise, but qualities of leadership pretty much apply across the spectrum of human endeavor, whether it's in business, government, sports, the army, the church or anywhere else.

Ambitious employees quite commonly claim they have a wish to lead. Inevitably, leadership is available to a few and unsuited to many. If anyone intends to tread the rarified path of high leadership, assessing personal qualities is not a bad place to start. We can all decide very quickly whether we have or are ready to acquire the basic skills and the focus to rise to the occasion.

- Philip Chatting

Global Sources

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