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Leadership Development

Who Benefits from Leadership Development? (Hint: Everyone)

Leadership Development

Icon by Dave Gandy


Did you ever think about what happens to people in leadership development programs after the learning occurs? They spend a day, or a few days, weeks, or months “being developed,” and then they exit the room where it all happened. Then what?

I have had the pleasure of taking leaders from 16 organizations in the human services industry through the LEADERSHIPVIP Program, a nine-month, custom Leadership Challenge® experience. The LEADERSHIPVIP Program is offered by LeadingAge Indiana, an association whose members are non-profit organizations providing care, services, and housing for the elderly in Indiana.

During our time together—in coaching calls and in-person sessions—I heard truly inspiring stories about how the leaders are applying what they have learned to improve the lives of the people they serve, after the learning, and it occurs to me: leadership development has a pay-it-forward effect. Yes, the “leader participant” learns and grows, but beyond the “room,” the development benefits just about everyone in the leader’s life. Let me share some examples of what I’m talking about.

Who benefits from leadership development?


Let’s start with the participating leaders themselves. Leadership is personal, and when we focus on leaders, good things happen in business. For instance, throughout the nine-month program I mentioned above, I saw people demonstrate greater competence, increased confidence, and a passion for the visions they created for themselves and their organizations. As one leader put it, “This was an amazing journey for me. I benefited in so many ways. I gained a lot more confidence as a leader!” It is well established within the deep research that supports the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®, that when leaders demonstrate the behaviors associated with the Practices, they see better results. And, the research did not fail in this case.


When leaders are competent and confident, they pay it forward by developing competent and confident followers. In discussions over the course of the program, I heard leaders, in both group and individual settings, remark on the improvement in the quality and quantity of time they spent with their teams. They met with team members to learn about their strengths, opportunity areas, personal interests and professional aspirations. They developed plans and provided opportunities for people to learn and grow.  As team members became more confident in their own abilities, they became more engaged and demonstrated deeper commitment to and ownership for personal and team results.


But leaders aren’t the only ones who pay it forward. When employees feel competent, confident, valued, and supported they are much more willing to give of themselves. Leaders in the program shared story after story of team members demonstrating more empathy, care, and concern for their residents. In one case, a busy team member noticed a resident who seemed down in her spirits. He dropped what he was doing, offered the resident a warm smile and engaged in a short conversation about her family. That moment shifted the resident’s entire outlook on the day; she went from feeling alone to feeling cared for.  


Of course the organizations that invest in leadership also experience a pay-it-forward effect. Organizations with a reputation for having engaged employees and committed leaders can leverage this reputation to build a strong employment brand. A strong employment brand is a significant competitive advantage in an industry that is already experiencing a shortage of qualified talent. And, family members of residents (as well as the residents themselves) who believe that their loved ones are safe, well-taken care of, and happy can be strong advocates and referral sources for attracting new residents.


When the leaders grow, employees are engaged, and a business operating to its potential, the industry benefits. In this example, the human services industry experienced a pay-it-forward effect of leadership development as leaders from 16 different organizations now speak a common leadership language and practice a common set of leadership behaviors that are based on a world-class leadership model (The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®). And each year, as new people participate in the LEADERSHIPVIP Program, the population of exemplary leaders in the human services industry will grow; and, that will lead to ever improving care and services for the elderly in Indiana.


Impact that starts with one leader continues in a powerful and lasting ripple effect. Leadership development isn’t a one-time thing that benefits only the people “in the room where it happens.” It matters and has an impact that extends well beyond the participating leader; the pay-it-forward effect of leadership development is real. But the degree to which you experience the effect is based on the investment you are willing to make in your leaders.

Where nothing is invested, nothing can be paid forward.

But, you don’t have to break the bank to experience the pay-it-forward effect. Organizations can make intelligent, strategic investments in their leaders that can positively impact their employees’ engagement, their customers’ satisfaction, and their bottom line. Are you ready to experience the pay-it-forward effect of leadership development? If you are, FlashPoint can help!

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Bill Mugavin

Bill Mugavin is a Senior Leadership Development Consultant at FlashPoint. He has worked with top-tier Fortune 1000 global organizations to improve leadership and management effectiveness.