LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT, which fundamentally is the improvement in an individual’s ability to take the lead and in their people skills, must start from, and be driven by, the learner.  Leadership is an individual endeavor.  Not solitary, but individual.

This is one of the reasons leadership development programs are so often a waste of time and money.  You cannot impose upon someone to develop as a leader.  The light bulb has got to want to change, as the old joke goes.

But all is not lost.  Here are two powerful ways to inspire a desire in others to develop themselves.

Provide a positive example.

Show that an active dedication to the traits of good leadership – thinking independently, dealing justly with others, constantly learning, and going at life passionately – works.  By “works”, I mean is the path to success and happiness.  Your example will work as a motivator, and will provide a kind of preview.

When a young individual with loads of potential is characterized as a “natural leader”, it’s not because they were born special; it’s because they had in early life the right kind of example, usually one or both parents, showing them what successful living looks like (a “negative example” might also create leadership, but likely comes with significant scarring).

Provide adhoc learning opportunities, not just formal.

By adhoc I mean leveraging everyday situations to encourage the taking of initiative and responsibility.  Encourage thinkingDelegate properly, teach, show, allow observation and encourage questions.  This is what mentoring is all about, and it works faster and surer than just about anything else.

Yes, you can and should offer more formal learning opportunities – courses, seminars, eLearning, core training, books, and the like – but make them voluntary, and not free.  Cheap, perhaps, but not free.  “User Pays” is a great way to separate wheat from chaff, and out-of-pocket expense is an added motivation to fully engage.  Real values need to be earned.  Contrary to popular belief, free stuff does not taste better.

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