Leadership Development: If Not Now; When?

Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. -- Bill Bradley

In a column for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, Jack Zenger unveiled a startling and troubling fact: We wait too long to train leaders. Citing research from his consulting agency, he revealed that in their database of some 17,000 worldwide leaders participating in their training programs, the average age for first-time leadership training was 42. More than half were between 36 and 49. Less than 10 percent were under 30, and less than 5 percent were under 27.

The results also pointed to another disturbing fact: the average age of supervisors in those firms was 33. The typical individual in those companies became a supervisor around age 30 and remained in the role for nine years. The result? Most of these individuals are not getting any leadership training at all as supervisors. They are operating the company untrained, on average, for over a decade.

That so many individuals are entering the workforce and advancing into positions of leadership with little or no leadership development is a frightening prospect. While a person may possess the management skills necessary to perform the duties of his or her work without proper personal leadership development it is not wise. The equivalent is teaching a person to swim by throwing them into the deep end of the swimming pool. While most survive, it’s ugly to watch.

While few in the corporate world would argue against the need for leadership development, its placement on the list of budgeting priorities suggests that it can wait. But can a company really afford to put forth supervisors and aspiring executives into positions of responsibility without the necessary leadership tools in hand? Personal leadership development is simply not something you should postpone. Here are three reasons why you should not delay.

Leadership development completes the learning process. It is good that executives and supervisors come to you trained to execute the mechanics of business, but without the leadership skill sets in place, it creates a negative drag. Leadership development is not about perfecting the craft of operating the business; it is about developing your people to be their best as leaders who operate the business. When you commit to the personal success of your people you make an investment in your business success.

Leadership development stabilizes the working environment. Strong leadership creates stability within your organization. A manager with strong leadership skills can resolve potentially negative situations much easier than one without them. In addition, they are the influencers who are passionate about taking everyone around them to a higher level. They give your company the competitive edge you desire. The long-term benefits to your company filled with executives and managers with strong personal leadership skills are invaluable.

Leadership development positions you for the future. The future success of your business depends on many factors aligning correctly. Developing better employees begins by developing better leaders. Your long term success in business is contingent upon it. Employees who have developed as leaders are focused on personal growth, performance, effectiveness, solutions, the future, etc. They are not mired down by the minutia of title, rank, and procedure. They desire to be productive and with the right leadership development they will.

Leadership development -- if not now, when?

Doug Dickerson is a nationally recognized leadership speaker and columnist. He is the author of two leadership books and is available to speak for your business. Visit his website at www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com. Follow Doug at www.twitter.com/managemntmoment.