What is Leadership Development?

July 15, 2009 - Mac Lake - Leadership Development

We talk about it a lot.  We know we need it.  We look for it.  But what is Leadership Development?  When I want to understand something I usually turn to a dictionary to get a definition. Well last night I was thinking about leadership development and it hit me – I’ve never defined it.  Since I couldn’t find a definition in my dictionary I decided to take a swing at it myself.  So here you go Mr. Webster, this one’s for you:   Leadership development is an intentional process in which one interacts with an experienced leader in order grow in the character and competencies that increase their effectiveness in influencing people, culture and outcomes.

Each phrase is important…

  • Intentional process – too often we try to develop leaders without having a well thought out process.  We say, “our leadership development is organic”.  Another way to put it is “our leadership development is accidental”.
  • Interacts with– Leadership development must be relational.  It’s a two way not a one way relationship.  Learning requires interaction, questioning, challenging and sharing. 
  • Experienced leader – leaders are produced by leaders.  You cannot lead someone where you have not been yourself.  This doesn’t mean the trainer needs to be an expert but they do need to have experience in leading. 
  • Grow in character and competencies – Leadership is a balance between being and doing, between spirit and skill.  In order to become a more effective leader you must grow in character and competency. 
  • Increase effectiveness – leadership development is all about improving; becoming better today than you were yesterday.  It’s about growing so you can increase your impact.
  • Influencing people, culture and outcomes – As John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence”.  Our development efforts must help leaders be more effective at influencing the attitudes, thoughts and behavior patterns of people.  But it goes beyond that, a leader is also responsible for the corporate culture of his organization or team.  So every leader must learn how to influence the corporate personality and values of the organization.  And finally leaders are responsible for results, so every leader must increase their ability to influence the results of their organization.   

So if this is the definition the question is:  Are we actually doing leadership development?

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Mac Lake


My passion is multiplying multipliers

3 responses to What is Leadership Development?

  1. I love the first point:

    intentional process – too often we try to develop leaders without having a well thought out process. We say, “our leadership development is organic”. Another way to put it is “our leadership development is accidental”.

    So few churches have a long term, intentional process in place. It’s easier celebrate the serendipitous formation of an occasional leader!

  2. I think there is a difference between leadership training and leadership development. Training is teaching how to do leadership things, development is how we are to be. Leadership development is building character, integrity, ethic into the leader. What are thoughts on this?

  3. Mac, I love your definition for Leadership.
    It covers the internal issues of Character, talents and Strengths and the external tools of experience, training and tooling.
    It is outcome oriented instead of process focused without loosing the value of a system.


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