Leadership Development POV: Part One

My point of view on leadership development begins by answering the “how.” Part two will explore the “why” or “what’s at stake” that makes leadership development so important for organizations today.

Part One is about desire, decision and the work of development. These three “D’s” are the essential, non-negotiable components of leadership development. All three must be present for anything to change.

Desire to change, to satisfy the internal longing to go from where I am today to where I want to be tomorrow, is the granddaddy of them all. Without desire change is nothing more than an accident of time and exposure. With desire new worlds become possible. A leader who “wants” to change because he or she is “supposed to” or because that’s what the culture expects may get a little ways down the path. But until real desire is present real change will not happen.

Decision represents the moment of truth. The moment when, after considering all of the internal and external forces at work against me (and aware that there are plenty more one cannot see), the leader decides to move, to take action and to own the results. The internal forces may be doubt, confusion, pain, fear, confidence or loss. The external forces may be relationships, politics, organizational changes, global recession or pandemic. Whatever they are, the decision point is the choice to confront them.

Development is the act of engagement in the work of individual change. This may happen independently, but more likely happens with specific support and some combination of resources, tools and plans. This is the actual doing of the work. The tedious, messy, dirty, grinding, one foot in front of the other, work of development. As David Whyte says: “if the path ahead of you is clear, you’re on somebody else’s path.” It’s when the leader is picking her way around the brambles, stepping in the mud, swimming through the whitewater, that she knows she is “in” her development.

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