Leadership Development

A personal attribute that is extremely important to one's professional career, as well as growth, is leadership development.  In an ever evolving workplace, professionals are challenged with opportunities to learn new and exciting ways to fully develop their leadership capabilities.

Individuals often acquire leadership skills over a lifetime's worth of nearly continuous learning.  As this occurs, these same individuals become more effective leaders at work and even at home.  Large companies oftentimes train their employees in leadership topics through formal coursework administered by trained professionals.

But there is another way this capacity increases, and that is through everyday challenges.  The reaction, and approach, to each of these challenges provides another opportunity to develop these skills.  People also become more effective leaders by taking a proactive approach to learning new skills using a career planning process.

Leadership Development Plans

To accurately understand what needs to go into a career development plan, individuals need three pieces of information:

  • An assessment of capabilities
  • An opportunity to address upcoming challenges
  • Feedback on performance as a leader

Capabilities Assessment

The capabilities evaluation can be part of a formal process such as a career assessment, or the information can be gathered informally.  The overall objective of this particular assessment is to help understand where to focus a leadership development plan.

Here again, three pieces of information are required:

  • The skills needed in the current work assignment
  • Personal strengths
  • Personal opportunities (that's a nice way to say weaknesses)

There are many ways to gather this information.  The human resources department in larger companies often has forms that can be filled out and mailed back to a third party service provider to analyze and compile the results.

This information can also be gathered informally via open and honest discussions with coworkers.  If an employee's company can help with this assessment, that's great.  Individuals that are on their own need to make sure their approach to gathering information is what's termed 360 degrees.  That means the information needs to be gathered from a boss, a peer, and a subordinate / direct report.

Upcoming Challenges

The upcoming challenges are those that are either new or those where a weakness in leadership capabilities might be revealed.  Sometimes the challenge can be as simple as using a skill that has never been tested before.

The challenge may also be a change in perspective that someone's unaccustomed to.  It is easy to identify a challenge this way:  What are the things that might keep someone off balance?  Remember, the point of this exercise is to figure out where someone's leadership capabilities might be weak, and practice developing those leadership skills.

Feedback on Performance

No development plan would be complete without a feedback mechanism.  It is important to gain periodic, substantial, and constructive feedback on progress as a new or developing leader.  A new challenge is on the horizon, and any gaps in leadership skills have become part of a development plan.  It is important to monitor progress, and make adjustments to behaviors as needed.

One way to gather feedback is by simply going back to those that helped identify strengths and weaknesses and ask them the simple question: "How am I doing?"

Final Thoughts

One of the best ways for someone to learn is by understanding and reacting to the challenges of the work environment in which they actively participate nearly every day.  Putting the plan together is really the easy part.  Developing the right leadership skills can be much harder.

If the personal assessment is an honest one, and the challenges are clearly understood, then the only remaining To Do is to gain feedback on progress.  It's impossible to do everything as an individual; the perspective and feedback of a coworker is something that can ultimately make everyone more effective leaders in today's workplace.


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