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Navigating the Ocean of Leadership Development Choices?

Ocean of Leadership Development Choices

Photo by Andrew Liggitt // CC by: 2.0

Take One Small Step from Paralyzed to Catalyzed

When I talk to clients, they seem daunted by the number of leadership development choices they have. I understand why. Last year alone, more than 1,000 new leadership books were added to the more than 57,000 choices already available on Amazon. If you Google “leadership,” you get back more than 763 million results in 53 seconds!

In the face of so many choices, “over-choice” can lead to a sort of choice-induced paralysis, which leads to indecision, which in turn can lead to a decision to do nothing. What happens to your organization if you do nothing to develop your leaders? 

  • Stunted growth due to deficits in recruiting and employee retention
  • Difficultly hiring because leaders and emerging leaders seek employers who make leadership development a priority
  • Difficultly retaining leaders and managers because leadership is not intuitive and our leaders can only take so many failures before they leave us to seek development elsewhere
  • Increased employee turnover because employees at every level seek personal growth, the opportunity to learn, and a winning organization—all of which come from having strong leadership

Organizational success comes from the choices you make to develop your leaders—so how can you avoid being overwhelmed by choices? Well, let’s take one small step by thinking through a few considerations—to move you from paralyzed to catalyzed to make the right leadership development decisions for your organization . . .

Won’t yesterday’s tried and true leadership approaches work today? 

Happily, no, we cannot rely on the past as a guide because leadership continues to change. As the practice of leadership has evolved, so has our understanding of leadership. Authors have espoused transformational, charismatic, “servant, and spiritual leadership perspectives, among others. Modern leadership thought applies concepts of neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and behavioral economics to the study of leadership.

All this means is that how we choose to develop our leaders must come after careful consideration of where our organizations need to go in order to be successful.

How does leadership development shape an organization’s brand and bottom line?

Leadership shapes organizational culture, and organizational culture shapes both employee productivity and business results. It should be no surprise, then, that leadership development impacts productivity and business results.

While we have traditionally thought about “culture” as a combination of symbols, rituals, stories, and organizational events, as well as how people in the organization think, behave, and feel as shown through individual values, team norms, and unwritten rules, today there is a new importance placed on customer perception. Culture is the company’s identity as perceived by its best customers, representing an outside-in view.

For example, Apple wants to be known for its design and simplicity; Marriott, for exceptional service; Google, for innovation. According to the HBR article “Your Company Culture Can’t Be Disconnected from Your Customers,” by Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank, by shifting the focus on culture from symbols and values to customer expectations and company identity, leaders can better create and define a culture—and a brand—that wins in the marketplace.

How can you choose the right leadership development approach for your organization?

Rely on specialists. Leadership doesn’t come in a box. Leadership development should be an ongoing, action-oriented process that takes into account your company’s current state and the competencies your leaders need in order to assure alignment between your development efforts and your business strategy.

Development processes need to be high energy and engaging to get your employees excited about growing their skills and contributing in new ways. Just as you rely on specialists within your organization to develop your product and provide your service, so too can you rely on leadership development specialists. 

Ready to choose?

Leadership development is a strategic investment in the long-term success of your organization. You know the price of paralysis and indecision; you and your leaders may have paid the price for too many years. It’s time to put your budget dollars into strategies that work and that will position you for the changing landscape of opportunity ahead.

BUT you don’t have to decide all at once, and you don’t have to navigate the choices on your own. Choosing to read, research, and think through the questions on this page is one small step and a great place to start. When you are ready choose, we are ready to help you clear the confusion and assist you in sifting through the right leadership development choices for your organization and your leaders. 


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Nancy S. Ahlrichs

Nancy S. Ahlrichs Nancy is an expert in organizational development, intergenerational communication and management, employee engagement and productivity, and managing Generations X and Y.

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