Leadership Development That Makes a Difference

StrategyDriven Professional Development Article | Leadership Development | Leadership Development That Makes a DifferenceAs a leader, there are multiple competing demands on your time. Too often, leadership development falls by the wayside. It’s too easy to file that under ‘get to it later.’ Yet, most leaders expect results.

If you didn’t spend time on your financial portfolio, would you expect results? What about your physical fitness and overall health? Would you expect to be in optimal physical health without any effort?

The problem with all these scenarios is that you can get by for some time without any effort. However, two issues arise. First, when it comes to your leadership, is getting by enough? Second, eventually that approach catches up. You will realize results. They just won’t be optimal.

Results require effort. There are no shortcuts. However, you can make smart investments in leadership development activities that have impact. These fit into two categories – low cost and high cost.

If you are looking for the best results and you have a higher budget to work with, the single best approach you can take is to hire a qualified leadership coach – emphasis on qualified. Their approach will be thorough and include an assessment of your current leadership, a plan tailored to your unique needs, multiple interactions over a defined period, and regular feedback and support. Much like a physical fitness trainer, they will stretch you outside your comfort zone and hold you accountable. This is a great approach, but it requires a more substantial investment of time and money.

Coaching is not for everyone though, and not everyone has an extensive budget to work with. Aside from cost, another drawback from coaching is that it has a finite timeframe – usually six to twelve months. After that, you are on your own.

For sustainable results, you must incorporate leadership development activities into your weekly routine. There are a wide variety of low-cost, high impact ways to develop your leadership skills.

The activities described below have little to no cost and can be incorporated into your regular routine. The caveat is that when pursuing these activities, it is not about checking a box and moving on to the next activity. You must get feedback, reflect, and reframe your perspective for learning to stick. For these activities, cost and time are both less and impact can be high, but you need to be self-driven and own the accountability.

When pursuing leadership development, there are three broad categories to focus on: take your pulse, build your core, and maintain flexibility. To avoid wasting your time on the wrong activities, never begin your leadership development game plan without knowing what you should work on. This requires an assessment. Although there are many options available, the best low cost, high impact assessment option is a good, reliable 360 assessment. Use the results to build your leadership development game plan.

Once you know what to work on, focus on your core. Building your core is about strengthening your knowledge about your industry, business and competitors, technical skills, and leadership skills. There are a wide variety of ways for you to do this including business books, trade publications, industry reports, and leadership podcasts. Your game plan should incorporate these activities on a weekly basis.

Maintaining your flexibility is about being nimble. These activities include what has come to be known as informal learning – activities that can be part of your everyday job and often help move the business forward. There are extensive opportunities to learn via collaborative and on the job approaches such as mentoring, teaching others, job shadowing and task forces.

Leadership is too important to simply get by. You need results that make a difference. When it comes to your leadership development, there are many low-cost, high impact options available. You just need to know where to look, establish a game plan, and take that first step.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Timothy J. TobinTimothy J. Tobin, author of Peak Leadership Fitness: Elevating Your Leadership Game, a learning and leadership development professional committed to helping individuals and organizations reach their greatest potential. He is currently vice president, franchisee onboarding and learning at Choice Hotels International, where he oversees the hotel opening processes and learning strategy and programs for all franchisees.

He was previously vice president of global leadership development at Marriott, and held leadership roles at Baker Tilly (formerly Beers + Cutler) and Booz Allen Hamilton, where he designed and implemented a variety of talent management solutions.  A frequent leadership speaker, he has served as an adjunct professor for more than 20 years at the University of Maryland, Catholic University, Trinity University, and George Washington University.

For more information, please visit

The Effective Guide to Leadership Development Programme

StrategyDriven Talent Management Articles |Leadership Development|The Effective Guide to Leadership Development ProgrammeWhat is a Leadership Development Program?

Leadership development refers to specific programs utilized by organizations, in order to train or coach an employee(s) about effective leadership requirements. These programs focus on improving the skill-set and attitudes of the individual or group of individuals.

Why is leadership development important?

The productivity of a workforce is largely dependent on the capability of its leaders. The importance of leadership development programs are manifold and are crucial to the development of organizations. These include:

  • Effective leadership development program helps people to execute and identify improvement strategies which will increase the productivity of valued resources and organizational success.
  • The more a company focuses on internal leadership development, the easier it is to achieve specific organizational objectives and goals such as, strategy change, reorganization, and cultural transformations among others.
  • Leadership development has been shown to help people become more open to constructive feedback and develop self-awareness, clarify behavioural patterns that may hinder job effectiveness, and also identify strengths and personal development needs.
  • Through proper coaching, a leader’s ability to assimilate is heightened, and a high-potential leader is developed. Thus, creating a highly effective manager who will undoubtedly assure success in new assignments.
  • In the long-run, having leaders that can foster a positive culture will provide a big impact on the organization.

StrategyDriven Talent Management Articles |Leadership Development|The Effective Guide to Leadership Development ProgrammeTwo Approaches to Learning about Leadership Development

There are two major approaches to leadership development and training programs which are individual or Self-directed approach and collective or other-directed approach. It’s essential that you learn and understand the approaches you can implement in improving your leadership development.

Formal vs. Informal training

Formal approaches are well structured, organized, pre-planned and forward-looking in order to achieve a specific outcome. While informal approaches are the knowledge you gain while on the job, carrying out your various day-to-day activities, reading a book or having discussions with a friend or colleague.

Regardless of the approach, that is, informal or informal, it is vital to capture and recognize that learning is a continuous process. You can’t just read a book or two and claim to know all about effective leadership.

If you are to become a great leader, then you need to learn to learn, and continue on the pathways to leadership development. The tip for continuously learning is to develop the ability to reflect on your past experiences as well as the experiences of others.

Individual or Self-directed Vs. Collective or Other-directed training

Individual development has been the targeted approach for a while now. Just as the name implies, it focuses on the development of a particular person or individual, solely to identify the person’s weaknesses and strengths, and in turn, train and improve his/her ability and trait.

This can be achieved through strategies like attending different seminars or workshops, reading books or other educational resources, one-on-one coaching, and questionnaires, among others.

The advantage of this approach is vast. The most important being undivided attention on the individual which will boost or speed up the individual’s skill and trait. However, this approach can be difficult to implement, costly and also send mixed messages within an organization.

Collective or Other-directed approach

A more recent approach is the collective approach, which focuses on training a group of people rather than an individual. This approach is easier to implement and can also produce powerful results in terms of leadership succession.

However, due to a lack of focus on individual skill-set, people may end up learning skills that do not fit their personalities or personal values or end up developing skills they already have.

Guidance for constructing a leadership development Program

  • Communicate your vision by outlining the qualities and skills required to occupy specific leadership positions in your organizations.
  • Set SMART organizational goals
  • Implement realistic and achievable solutions

Focus on the outcomes by monitoring the performance of the leader at every step of the way, through a regular meeting.

Tips for personal leadership development

  1. Strategic thinking
    Have a broader business perspective. Learn to ‘think outside the box’ and see the big picture. Also learn to understand the ‘why’ and not just the ‘how’.
  2. Coaching
    Learn to direct and guide your team rather than always telling them what to do.
  3. Financial Shrewdness
    Fine-tune your financial literacy to better understand and interpret the company’s financial statements.
  4. Active Listening
    Tone up your ability to pay more attention and demonstrate that you value what other team members have to say.
  5. Industry, competitive and customer knowledge
    Understand what your customers need, have a vast knowledge of the industry you are in and know your competitors.
  6. Point balance
    Leaders need to know how to balance their strengths and use them when needed and to ‘put a leash’ on them when they are not appropriate. Strengths overused can easily turn into weaknesses.
  7. Time management
    Manage your time appropriately and learn to prioritize. Make a step-by-step plan for resolving tasks and avoid seemingly unproductive ventures and focus more on value added activities.
  8. Talent management
    Have a succession plan for your position, fill all positions with ‘A players’ and do not be afraid to let go of toxic employees. Refine your ability to hire, promote, delegate, assess and promote your staff.
  9. Leadership Presence and Effective Communication
    Learn the ability to ‘command attention’, communicate with people whose styles and perspectives may differ from your own and also respect their perspectives. Utilize available technology to improve internal communications and collaborate virtually.
  10. Integrity Building
    Inspire your employees to be people of unquestionable integrity when you stick to your values and core beliefs, do not make unreasonable demands of your team nor make false promises.
  11. Change Management
    Learn to summon others to change, instigate changes, be flexible to change, bring needed changes to light, drive company-wide inspiration and motivation to change, and also set the parameters for developing a culture of change within the organization.
  12. Develop an effective collaboration with employees.
  13. Conflict and confrontational management
  14. Cross functional knowledge and perspective including the ability to network across boundaries

StrategyDriven Podcast Special Edition 49 – An Interview with Kathryn Ullrich, author of Getting to the Top

StrategyDriven Podcasts focus on the tools and techniques executives and managers can use to improve their organization’s alignment and accountability to ultimately achieve superior results. These podcasts elaborate on the best practice and warning flag articles on the StrategyDriven website.

Special Edition 49 – An Interview with Kathryn Ullrich, author of Getting to the Top explores the approaches everyone in the corporate world can use, regardless of their current position, to shape their career development and accelerate their advancement. During our discussion, Kathryn Ullrich, author of Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success, shares with us her insights and illustrative examples regarding:

  • what an individual should do to identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences needed at the next level and then get an accurate understanding of their personal strengths, weaknesses, and developmental needs to move into the desired position
  • four different career paths and the developmental benefits of each
  • determining how long an individual needs to be in a position to realistically satisfy their developmental needs
  • avenues an individual should consider pursuing if a needed developmental assignment within their organization is unavailable
  • the several key skills and functional area experiences commonly possessed by those at the top
  • actions leaders should take and what roles they should fulfill in the development of their employees

Additional Information

In addition to the incredible insights Kathryn shares in Getting to the Top and this special edition podcast are the resources accessible from her website,   Kathryn’s book, Getting to the Top, can be purchased by clicking here.

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About the Author

Kathryn Ullrich, author of Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success, heads Kathryn Ullrich Associates, a Silicon Valley executive search firm, and Alumni Career Services for UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Kathryn also leads the Getting to the Top career development programs at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Through these career programs, over 1,500 attendees have learned the career paths and skills to be successful in different functional areas including marketing, product management, public relations and corporate communications, strategic alliances and channels, sales, business development, consulting, private equity, corporate operations, and general and executive management. To read Kathryn’s complete biography, click here.