Leadership Development for a Good Leader


M. Revaty Vishal
Asst. Professor
N. Priya
Sr. Lecturer
MBA Department
Shirdi Sai Engg. College


Now that the Great Man Theory of Leadership is dead, it's reasonable to ask what makes a leader the most. In the end, says this author, it is self mastery. And as she writes, learning how to master the self is just one of five imperatives that, properly met, develop the kind of leaders to steer people and organizations to succeed.

Warrior virtues have always defined the successful leader. From the stories of ancient Greece to the novels, films, television dramas and pop songs of today, those who succeed against the odds are invariably the strong, the courageous, the resilient and the bold. The events of the last decade, however, have taught us painful lessons about the excesses of warrior leadership. The collapse of Enron is the obvious example, the current meltdown in the financial services industry is another. Warrior leadership has been exposed as wanting. Instead, it is ordinary heroes whom organizations need to foster if they are to fit themselves for the real world. These are leaders with a deep awareness of self, who lead with humility as well as courage, leaders who can build teams characterized by strong inter-personal relationships as well as deliver results, and leaders who can set direction which attends to the needs of all the organization's stakeholders rather than, merely, the vociferous few.

Much has been written of late about how to create development pathways for real-world leaders. Typically, a range of solutions is recommended, including job rotations, on-line learning, and special projects and mentoring. But the conventional, albeit costly, residential programme continues to be a favoured offering, making it essential that executives in people development harness the full power of the programme in their drive to turn their organization into a talent-rich enterprise. But how do you do that? This article addresses that question.

Step 1: Develop a leadership brand

One short-term solution to the challenge of creating an effective leadership development programme is to buy an external provider and their solution. There are plenty out there to choose from as this is a big business. The best will be researching the field, keen to differentiate themselves by their particular leadership formula, and finding innovative ways to teach. But no executive in people development who wants to take his or her organisation into the future should buy anyone else's formula. Such approaches can never be more than what Dave Ulrich of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and his co-writer Norm Smallwood call "standard-issue leader training," that based on generic leadership models. In their words, "vanilla competency models generate vanilla leadership." Busy as you are, a more time-intensive, more strategic approach is required. It begins with the development of what Ulrich and Smallwood call a leadership brand. This process involves, firstly, "nailing the prerequisites of leadership" in your business by knowing how you want to be viewed by your stakeholders and secondly, it involves articulating a company identity based on that knowledge which you can represent in a clear statement of "leadership brand." This brand can then be translated into sets of meaningful challenges for each level of leadership in your organization. All the evidence suggests that, when companies align the development of their leaders with their business strategy, their leadership development work itself becomes strategic. The reason they win is because they have developed their leaders in a way that makes them successful.

The nine essential capabilities of an effective leader

Builds shared vision

  • Champions customer and stakeholder focus
  • Maximizes business opportunities
  • Demonstrates self mastery
  • Displays interpersonal effectiveness
  • Demonstrates courage
  • Motivates, coaches and develops
  • Values difference
  • Delivers results through others

Step 2: Source providers in the scholar-practitioner mode

The second task is to source providers in the scholar-practitioner mode. Ultimately, of course, leadership is about application, but as Kurt Lewin, famously quoted as saying, "There is nothing so practical as a good theory." Lewin's genius was his ability to work at the intersection of theory and practice: He applied theory to his practice and, from his practice, he created theory. Similarly, the young leaders need to be at the developmental edge of their practice. They need to be curious, conceptual thinkers who are well-grounded in the latest methods and approaches for, say, developing strategy, making decisions, and leading change which can be applied in service of your leadership brand, so that they can help your leaders to determine the range of options that are available to them. But they must be experienced practitioners too, people who have previously grappled with these issues for themselves (so, developed strategy, made the lonely and difficult decisions, and led change efforts). They must also have made mistakes along the way and have the wisdom and humility to recognize them, and the commitment to help others avoid them, so that they can help your leaders to choose precisely which course of action to follow. It is this mix of theoretical knowledge and real-world experience which makes scholar-practitioners credible educators.

Step 3: Take leaders on a learning journey

The third task is to design a learning experience which will take the leaders on a development journey. This journey must begin with knowing self. When we know self, we may be able to lead self. And not until we can lead self do we earn the right to lead a team, lead an organization. So, as you design learning experiences for the leaders, use what is, of course, familiar systems thinking to shape the journey you create for them.  To illustrate, if you are an action-orientated, delivery-focused leader, your preference may well be to focus on getting things done a preference which is highly valued in a left-brained dominated world, and reinforced by the measurement drivers of metrics, targets,  shareholder reports and so on. But to look into the future, to imagine new possibilities, to create a compelling vision for others and to motivate and inspire them to follow you there, requires a very different way of thinking and working (which we associate with the right hemisphere of the brain). When you know how you prefer to think and work, you can learn to manage yourself to ensure that you pay sufficient attention to establishing direction, aligning people, and motivating and inspiring them, as well as to planning and budgeting, organising and staffing, controlling and problem-solving. And so, with increasing facility with these different practices, you can become more effective in leading Self, in leading your team and, ultimately, in leading your organisation. Self Mastery really is the defining quality of great leadership.

Step 4: Help your leaders to discover themselves

But how do you know the opportunity to do this foundational work of knowing Self in order to lead Self and others? Our early pioneers developed "T-Group" technology, or facilitated group dialogue, for that very purpose. In what we now call Human Interaction Laboratories, participants engage over five days with a group of people they have never met before in a conversation of deep feedback and discovery in order to increase their understanding of themselves. These flagship programmes are the most popular, replicated and most effective courses available for developing self-awareness. But it is not always possible for organizations to release their leaders for a week at a time for this special experience. Lectures in the classroom, which are essentially and simply cognitive experiences that help people determine the "what's" of their leadership, can never create the disruption in being which leaders often need.


The Chinese character for 'listen to' is made up of five elements:

Physiologically we need ears to listen

We listen with our eyes (the non-listener is looking elsewhere)

Effective listening involves being receptive to the feelings that are being communicated as well as the facts

Undivided Attention
Active listeners focus their attention on the person who is talking

True listening treats the other person as someone special, as someone who is important

But these are insights about how the coachers are exercising their leadership now. How might they exercise it differently in order to be more effective? Who could they be as a leader? At this point, let we remember Daniel Goleman's six styles of leadership as a set of lenses through which to view them. "What is their apparent default style?" Is it predominantly Coercive? Authoritative? Affiliative? Democratic? Pacesetting? Or Coaching? And how could they expand their current repertoire of styles? When we understand this, it helps to think through what they could do differently in order to be more effective in a wider range of business situations.

Step 5: Demonstrate a real Return-On-Investment

So, after creating a leadership brand and translated it into meaningful challenges for each level of leadership in the organization; and now the final task is to demonstrate that this high-cost investment will have a real impact on business performance - a notoriously difficult challenge. Here are five lessons from the field:

  • In the first instance, and self-evidently perhaps, ensure that the right people enrol in the right programmes. Identify those staff who have clear leadership responsibilities, and then sort those, from amongst them, who need in-role development from those with high-potential, who need help to navigate the next turning point in their career
  • Enter into a contract with participants which calls on them to make an explicit commitment to their own development as a prerequisite for earning a place on a programme
  • Provide them with feedback tools which enable them to gather data in advance about how they are performing with respect to your leadership brand so that they enter their programme with some awareness of their areas for development
  • Incorporate engagement sessions with senior leaders who can role model the expression of thoughtful leadership, and who can articulate your organization's expectation that all those who seek to lead must be willing to learn continuously
  • Integrate multi-modular programmes with work-based projects in order to maintain momentum


The first section emphasizes the importance of creating your own, unique language for leadership, drawn from your business strategy. This should form the organizing framework for the learning experience. The second advocates that you select providers in the scholar-practitioner mode - people who know that theory is practical and who can help others to apply it within their own spheres of influence. The third describes the in-programme learning journey you need to craft for the leaders to develop their inter-individual, group and system effectiveness. The fourth explores how you can help them to discover the behavioral choices that are available to them. And, finally, the fifth section offers five lessons from the field to enable you to demonstrate that all-important real return on the investment made. These are the five imperatives that, properly met, develop the kind of leaders to steer people and organizations to succeed.


Organizational Behavior, by Freud Luthans,

Building a Leadership Brand, by Dave Urich and Norm Smallwood (Harvard Business Review)

What Leaders Really Do, by John Kotter (Harvard Business Review)

Leadership That Gets Results, by Daniel Goleman (Harvard Business Review)

M. Revaty Vishal
Asst. Professor
N. Priya
Sr. Lecturer
MBA Department
Shirdi Sai Engg. College

Source: E-mail September 7, 2010


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