Core Leadership Development Practices to Define and Structure Leadership Capabilities.

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Wowledge Expert Team
Principal level
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This guide is part of a progression set comprised of Core, Advanced, and Emerging Leadership Development practices.

What it is

Leadership Development (LD) is the strategy and process of developing the key skills, capabilities, and styles needed by top leaders to successfully drive organizational performance and culture. It is a specialized learning and development function that focuses initially on the top levels of leadership and their unique development needs and requirements. It involves the identification of differentiating capabilities or competencies that define excellence in leading of others.

LD engages leaders in the expansion of their skillsets and capabilities over a period of years so that they are prepared to respond positively and constructively to changing business and workforce challenges as those arise. At this level, leaders’ development needs are assessed primarily at the aggregate level and developed through formal learning programs designed to hone their strategic, business, operational, and relationship capabilities.   

Why use it

Leadership development creates multiple benefits to the organization, most critically in preparing leaders to better envision and oversee corporate growth and success. It defines success and provides individuals with a common and standardized definition of the elements of leading successfully within a company’s unique culture. It can accelerate change and growth within an organization by directing top leaders’ focus and behaviors towards a common set of goals, reinforces a company culture by clarifying what behaviors are most valued, helps maintain executive alignment around strategies, and encourages best practice distribution.

Learning experiences promote constructive values regarding the management of people throughout an organization, with skill-building in leading and managing others for enhanced productivity, performance, and growth. Positive impacts on employee retention, engagement, and future leadership bench strength are all designed outcomes for both the leaders and their subordinates.   

Practice guides at this level

Defining leadership competencies that provide consistent benchmarks.

In the context of leadership development, competencies are commonly used as benchmarks for both superior performance and assessments for the development needs of current executives. 

Identifying targeted participants to encompass all key roles.

Leadership Development is an effort designed to prepare key leaders to better manage their organizations and role requirements. It typically involves an investment commensurate with their level. 

Analyzing leadership development skill and capability gaps.

Involves collecting data on each potential program participant from their direct superior and generating an aggregated "gap" analysis that reveals group-level weaknesses that need to be addressed by the selected development programs.

Selecting or developing signature leadership development programs that drive excellence in management.

A signature program serves as the base learning event that all top leaders are required to attend. Such a program can range from a one week in-person offsite event to a multi-week series of online courses or even a multi-semester program at a university. 

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