Monday, July 14, 2008

Leadership Development can't just be of Leaders

Having had a conversation about how "leadership is developing leaders" with someone, and being tired of the 6.5 billion irrefutable laws of leading and following, and how often I hear individuals speak of being a "leader of leaders" but never interact with these proteges as it pertains to their ACTUAL FOLLOWERS!, I had the following outline of thought.

1. Leadership development is not just developing leaders but giving them opportunities.
a. There is leadership development of skills, character, history, etc.
b. But there is ALSO develop opportunities for them to learn how to lead: by practice, experience

2. Otherwise "leadership development" is just developing individuals, it's not generating anything that needs to be led!
a. That is, self-promoting in that it is circular (cf. old story about the lighthouse that turned into the lighthouse society that was too busy being a society to save sailors anymore)
b. That is, it would never be FOR the followers but just FOR the leaders!

3. Thus, "leadership development" is the development of individuals (leaders) AND expressions of leadership (on behalf of of the followers) or it will ALWAYS be hypothetical (or worse, circular)

Implication: NOT every leader can/should be involved in this scope of Leadership Development. It is, much more so, a very different kind of leadership development that is not for every leader (due to history, genetics, etc.). In fact, a Leadership Coach/Developer might not be much of a leader at all, but might be a masterful coach who also comes up with/finds expressions of leadership.

Example: Leadership Development in the International (actually, Chinese) District of Seattle. Leadership Development should certainly include skills, theory, character, etc. But if they don't actually get out an lead, then we've done nothing but propagate titles.

[Even worse would be that we now call this person a sage and ask him/her to train others who do nothing but train others]
So leadership development would need to also include actually leading. Perhaps:
+ Creating a "clean up the street" program to be led by developing leaders
+ Founding, staffing, helping create curriculum for a "big Brother training center" where developing leaders can run/manage/engage
+ Handing a young leader the topic of:
"self-sustaining food production inside This District"
Paperwork aid for non-English speakers
homeless legal defense

All examples of something that is done for the locals, on behalf of the locals, with the locals, etc.


BAB said...

Good post. I too am often frustrated with leadership talk.

Is it OK for someone not to want to lead? I think there is this unspoken pressure to be a leader--like that is the only real thing to be. (It is kind of like how many churches unwittingly only value the gift of teaching.)

To me the first prerequisite for leadership is that you don't really want to be one, but people are following anyway.

David Malouf -- said...

Yes, yes! I know you know I agree that Leadership is the uber-gift and that I think MOST people do not have it (just like most leaders don't have sit-down-and-talk, with no agenda gifts).

Further, I do NOT combine Leading and Discipling (this comes from a conversation with my small-group friend Pat Anderson - he rocks!). When I write of Leading, I really mean leading - not just "influencing" or "impacting" but choosing to look out for a community of people (from 1 to 1 trillion) and think/chose/decide/act on THEIR behalf.

So with that in mind, I don't know that I can agree with your last paragraph (not wanting = step 1) but I DO fully appreciate where that is coming from in your soul and I can FULLY appreciate why you would write/think that!

Joanie said...

This post makes me giggle of how generally thrown around the term "leader" is in the world of student affairs. We had an advertising campaign for RA positions in the spirit of the old Jetta commercials. The posters read "Leaders Wanted." That means we were only looking for fully formed leaders. Hmmm...not sure how many 18/19 year olds can claim such titles. Not sure either how many "leaders" we actually hired that year :) But, at least we helped a few students learn to be leaders through opportunities in their community.

rimmy(personal Development) said...

Your post is interesting. I feel Leaders must be prepared to always illustrate paths for new horizons, and help others reinvent models for succeeding in their aspirations – personally and professionally.Thanks for sharing this worthy post.