Are leaders born or made?” This age-old question, which is a little too black-and-white, may have a whole lot of gray. Could it be that some people are born with certain leadership predispositions, an innate leadership blue-print to build on…yes! At the same time, there should exist those who lack these inborn leadership characteristics.

And this is encouraging… Knowing who, among your workforce, has what it naturally takes to benefit from leadership development is a must! Not necessarily because they are born great leaders, but because they have a potential that can be maximized.

Here are a few pointers to encourage leadership development within your organization!

Leadership development: all about natural strengths

We can try to develop, or “make” leaders to some degree, but their natural reflexes will always come out to play. Therefore, these people will continuously be going against the grain in a leadership role, which does not make a healthy nor happy leader.

On the other hand, some people might not be your visible top leaders by nature, but they have a certain pre-wiring that makes them “leaders in the making”. They are “born”, to a certain extent, with a leadership foundation, but need to be developed or “made” into true leaders.

Make sure you consider this very important notion in order to truly encourage leadership development within your organization!

Determine not who, not what, but WHY!

Are you preparing a succession plan? Promoting someone? Or do you just want to encourage leadership because there is a lack of initiative, direction and/or vision in your company?

Whatever the case may be, you must identify why you want to embark on this journey, because finding the purpose will make it a whole lot easier to determine how to prepare, and what you want your desired outcome to be. Determining “why” you want leadership development will provide you with a specific target, something to aim for throughout the whole process, and help you determine when you’ve reached your goal.

Leader here, leader there, leader everywhere?

Throughout my experience, I’ve asked many people to define leadership, and although a lot of similar competencies are mentioned, there still remains a certain uniqueness in what people choose to underline or state first.

Sure, being competent in conflict resolution, empowering others and taking initiative may be common examples of what it takes to be a leader, but styles of leadership and the way these skills are applied may differ depending on the organizational culture.

So I ask you to reflect not only on what your definition of leadership is, but what the definition of leadership is within your organization. This will encourage others because they will get a firmer grip on what behaviours you are looking for, which will help build a more precise leadership development plan.

Will the real leaders please stand up!

Not everyone should be considered even though you’re trying by all means to encourage leadership development. We need good, effective followers just as much as we need leaders. Investing time and energy in the wrong people can be very costly. So how do we differentiate?

You might have heard this idea that “You manage things, you lead people” (Grace Hopper, US naval officer). Many believe there is a difference here.  A leader might be more likely to innovate whereas a manager may be more inclined to administer. One might empower while the other controls. There have been many standpoints on how qualities of a good manager may differ from what it takes to be a good leader. So reflect on what a true leader means to you and your organization.

Then, take a look at your human capital and discover those who have the natural reflexes for such a role. I’m talking about leadership tendencies or personality traits that come more naturally for some and not others, and if developed further, have a lot of potential for success.

So who are they? Maybe you haven’t even considered them yet because they are less demonstrative. Or perhaps they have already stood out among their peers.

Nonetheless, have your workforce complete a psychometric test in order to uncover their strengths and figure out:

  • if they have the right leadership blueprint for development
  • if they are motivated to take the risk and embark on this promotion and/or new position of power.
  • if they have the right resistance to stress in order to concentrate and take on the pressures of being a leader.
  • how to build a leadership development plan that is aligned with their specific needs.

Encourage leadership development, and not leadership training

Studies about the difference between leadership training and leadership development, reveal how leaders may actually dislike being “trained” yet will welcome and be motivated by being “developed”.

Some of the reasons were that “training” follows standards and best practices, is focused on the present, is transactional and is centered on the known, whereas “developing” goes beyond the norm, focuses on the future and maximizing potential, is transformational and explores the unknown.

It goes on to say that we must not train leaders, but mentor, coach and develop them; that we should step away from this idea of cookie-cutter leaders that maintain the status quo and encourage unique development that is focused on the person.

So before investing time and energy on leadership development, start by determining purpose in order to establish a specific target, understand what leadership means to your organization, uncover who has the natural reflexes to maximize potential, and promote development as opposed to training.

If you haven’t considered these aspects of leadership development, it’s never too late!

By Christine Chartrand.

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