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Journal of Management Development
Online from: 1982
Subject Area: HR & Organizational Behaviour
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Differentiating leader and leadership development: A collective framework for leadership development
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Afroditi Dalakoura (Department of Management Science and Technology, Athens University of Economics and Business, Athens, Greece)
Afroditi Dalakoura, (2010) "Differentiating leader and leadership development: A collective framework for leadership development", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 29 Iss: 5, pp.432 - 441
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Financial support for this study was received from the Greek Ministry of Education and the European Union under the Irakleitos Research Fellowship Program. The author also wishes to thank Professor D. Bourantas for his valuable help in establishing the leadership development framework and scale.
- The purpose of this paper is to revisit the prevalent perceptions of leadership development, consider the constructs that affect leadership development in an organization, and propose a collective framework for leadership development.
- Existing leadership development literature is appraised. The paper identifies the factors that determine leadership development and focuses on the context in which leadership is developed.
- The paper implies that leadership development involves multiple and coordinated actions.
- The paper provides guidelines for successful leadership development in practice.
- The paper takes a holistic approach to leadership development and proposes a set of items for measuring leadership development.
Leadership development, Leaders
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The concepts of leader and leadership development are to a large extent used interchangeably with no evident distinction made between them in literature. Most of the studies speak of leadership development, when in fact they refer to leader development and the reasons and the means through which organizations are able to develop the leadership skills of their executives. However, leadership development holds a broader meaning than simply developing the leadership skills of individual leaders, although leader development still remains a critical aspect for organizations.
This paper aims at making conceptual and practical clarifications between leader and leadership development in order to distinguish between them and capture the actual meaning of leadership development. Then it moves to investigate how organizations can or should develop leadership at all levels and proposes a collective framework for leadership development.
Leader development vs leadership development
A possible explanation for the inadequacy in distinguishing leader development from leadership development is due to the fact that the majority of the prior empirical studies of leadership examined leadership largely as an individual phenomenon, focusing on the behaviours and skills of the leader (Day, 2001). Thus, leadership was expected to occur mainly as the result of training individual leaders and the development of their skills and competencies. But, as already stated, leadership is not just an individual phenomenon. It is a complex phenomenon that encompasses the interactions between the leader and the social and organizational environment (e.g. House and Aditya, 1997; Shamir and Howell, 1999; Waldman and Yammarino, 1999; Boal and Hooijberg, 2001; Hunt and Dodge, 2001; Osborn et al., 2002; Vera and Crossan, 2004; Waldman et al., 2004; Porter and McLaughlin, 2006).
Senge (1995) supports this view by arguing that the old leadership perspective was deeply individualistic and non‐systemic. Under the new leadership perspective, leaders are responsible for building organizations in which people continuously expand their capacity to learn, to understand complexity and to set the vision for the organization. Likewise, Day (2001) links leader development to the human capital of the organization and leadership development to the social capital of the organization. O'Toole (2001, p. 163) also distinguishes leader and leadership development stating that in the former case we should be asking "what qualities do we need to develop in our leaders?" while in the latter we should actually be asking "what qualities do we need to develop in our organization?"
Leadership development embraces the development of a broader and collective framework in which leadership is developed in practice (Hernez‐Broome and Hughes, 2004). As a social process, it involves everyone in the organization (Barker, 1997; Wenger and Snyder, 2000; Tichy and Cardwell, 2002), and special attention is placed on the development of such relations between individuals that will add value to the organization (Becker et al., 1997; Ulrich, 1977; Tsai and Ghoshal, 1998). At the heart of this relational model lies the commitment of the members of the organization towards mutual responsibilities, further supported by mutual trust and respect (Brower et al., 2000).
The importance of leadership development is not diminishing the importance of leader development. Both leader development and leadership development are necessary, in a systemic attempt to increase leadership effectiveness in an organization (Day, 2001). As such, both leader and leadership development should be integrated in a new leadership perspective that will be in alignment with the broader goals and strategy of the organization. If that is achieved, then it can be expected that the development of leadership at all levels will have the greatest possible impact on firm performance (Conger, 1993; McClelland, 1994; Day, 2001; O'Toole, 2001).
The growing need for leadership development
A rich body of literature treats leadership development as an increasingly critical and strategic imperative for organizations and argues that organizations that wish to survive and succeed in today's turbulent and highly competitive business environment need to develop leadership at all levels (e.g. Ready et al., 1994; Tichy, 1997; McCall, 1998; Atwater et al., 1999; Conger and Benjamin, 1999; Day, 2001; O'Toole, 2001; Tichy and Cardwell, 2002; Ulrich and Smallwood, 2003; Leskiw and Singh, 2007).
The forces that stimulate the need for leadership development stem from both the external and the internal corporate environment. As the key elements of the external corporate environment of the last decade or so comprise rapid technological advancements, excessive uncertainty, intense world competition and severe hostility, organizations experience tremendous turbulence that not only calls for speed in decision making, but also alters fundamentally the organizational landscape in which leaders are expected to operate. The hierarchies of the past are no longer applicable; they hamper an organization's actions. For organizations to survive and succeed through such demanding conditions, exceptional leadership is needed at all levels.
The fierce competition and the instantaneous distribution and availability of knowledge due to the advent of computer technology force organizations to flatten their hierarchies and decentralize decision‐making in order to gain flexibility and be able to respond with speed. The use of cross‐functional project and process teams has increased and leaders, along with their immediate subordinates, have multiple teams reporting to them, challenging the traditional role of the leader, who is no longer viewed as just the "boss", but also a coordinator, a coach, and a consultant (Conger, 1993).
Significant changes are also occurring in human values (Cacioppe, 1998) and in the backgrounds and needs of the employees (Conger, 1993). Conger explains these changes on the increasing emphasis on organizational behavior in management schools and the development of employee rights acts, which have made subordinates less tolerant of any interpersonal weaknesses of their superiors. Subordinates today expect their leaders to be more interpersonally competent in order to succeed in being truly influential as organizational leaders.
Leadership development in practice
Commonly used practices for leader and leadership development include 360‐degree feedback, coaching and mentoring either from top executives and line managers of the firm or from external consultants, networking, action learning, specific job assignments, corporate case studies, computer simulations, experiential learning and of course classroom‐type leadership training with in‐house or external trainers (Keys, 1994; McCall, 1998; Cacioppe, 1998; Day, 2001). Leadership development programs are usually designed and conducted by the human resources specialists within the firm, outside consultants, and academic co‐coordinators. The involvement of the CEO or the top management team of the firm is rather limited in most cases (Day, 2001; Maxwell and Watson, 2006).
Programs aiming at the development of leadership at all levels are more difficult to design and implement than those targeted at increasing the skills and competencies of individual leaders. Leadership development practices should provide employees with opportunities to learn from their work. Thus, leadership development should occur in the context of ongoing work initiatives, also tied to strategic business imperatives (Tichy, 1997; Poole and Jenkins, 1996; Delbridge and Lowe, 1997; Brown and Posner, 2001). The successful integration of the leadership development program into everyday organizational practices is a critical success factor to effective leadership development at all levels.
The successful implementation of leadership development programs depends largely on the effort, support, commitment and active involvement of the firm's line managers, the top management team and the CEO (Tichy, 1997; Beeson, 1998; Cacioppe, 1998; Yarnall, 1998; Tichy and Cardwell, 2002; Ulrich and Smallwood, 2003). Tichy (1997, pp. 42‐43) notes that "if a leader is to be successful, he or she must develop others to be leaders" and explains that "a person may have all the other traits of leadership, but if he or she doesn't personally see to the development of new leaders, the organization won't be sustainable, and the person is not a true leader - at least not a winning one".
There are many reasons why leaders should develop other leaders. Leaders transfer to their followers their own experience and knowledge. They provide a focus for common goals and actions and set the strategy and decision making direction for their subordinates to follow (Tichy, 1997). Nonetheless, it brings personal satisfaction to leaders by helping others to grow (Mumford, 1993). In addition, leaders' own skills, knowledge and insights are further developed as a result of sharing their experience with others. Improving the performance of others, leaders are enhancing their ability to deal with tasks they currently do, which can allow them to pursue higher leadership responsibilities (Mumford, 1993). Line managers can also play a key role in changing organizational culture through the communication of the proper messages and behaviors to their followers. In light of this, successful leadership development will ideally add to the development of a continuous learning and leadership culture in the organization (O'Toole, 2001; Ulrich and Smallwood, 2003).
Considerable attention should also be given to the leaders' self‐development capacity at all levels. It is imperative that in the fast changing environment of today, employees should also take responsibility for their own development. Self‐development is an essential success factor, since it promotes continuous learning. However, self‐development is not only a matter of individual leaders themselves, but should be encouraged by their line managers and the human resource department of the firm (London and Smither, 1999), i.e. through 360‐degree feedback, coaching and mentoring, and through the HRM systems.
The HRM systems of the firm (i.e. recruiting, selecting, training, and development) should also enhance the development of skilled, motivated and empowered employees that engage in functional leadership behavior for the firm (Wright et al., 1994; Becker and Huselid, 1998; Fey et al., 2000; Wright et al., 2001). As O'Toole (2001) argues, organizations that develop leadership at all levels treat leadership as an institutionalized capacity, meaning that many of the key tasks and responsibilities of leadership are institutionalized in the systems, practices, and cultures of the organization (Figure 1).
Measuring leadership development
If an organization has developed leadership at all levels, then its people would act more like owners and entrepreneurs than just hired employees; they would take initiative to solve problems, acting with a sense of urgency and a willingness to experiment; they would willingly accept accountability for meeting commitments and they would share a common philosophy and language of leadership. In addition, they would further create, maintain and adhere to systems and processes designed to measure and reward these distributed leadership behaviors (Tichy, 1997; McCall, 1998; O'Toole, 2001; Tichy and Cardwell, 2002). The following list features a number of items that can be used to determine whether an organization develops leadership at all levels:
The organization has a steady focus on developing leaders at all levels.
The organization has a culture that values leadership behavior at all levels.
The organization has explicitly stated values and principles concerning leadership behavior.
Leadership behavior is encouraged and rewarded at all levels.
Structures facilitate leadership behavior at all levels.
Line managers are personally committed to developing other leaders.
Line managers actively put time into developing other leaders through training, coaching, and mentoring.
Leadership development is a priority of strategic importance.
Opportunities are offered to exercise leadership at all levels.
Teaching is hard‐wired into everything people do.
Desired leadership behaviors are explicit to everyone in the organization.
Training for developing leadership skills is systematic.
The context of leadership development
The growing recognition that leadership development involves more than just developing individual leaders leads to a greater focus on the context in which leadership is developed (Hernez‐Broome and Hughes, 2004). The need for leadership development is imperative in modern organizational environments where changes create uncertainty and unpredictability and problems are too many and too complex to be identified and sorted out by one or a few persons (Conger, 1993; Beeson, 1998; McCall, 1998; Bennis, 1999; O'Toole, 2001). In cases of constant changes, the need for communication, coordination, consensus and rational decision making increases (Schuler et al., 1993; Priem et al., 1995; Ketchen et al., 1996; Homburg et al., 1999). Therefore, organizations operating in a rapidly changing and hostile environment are called to develop mechanisms and systems that will enable its people to withstand the challenges of such a demanding environment (Kessler and Chakrabarti, 1996; Wright et al., 2001) (Figure 2). In fact, Bennis (1999) argues that top‐down leadership for modern organizations is not only an unrealistic situation, but a dangerous one, threatening the organizations' long‐term success and states that "in a society as complex and technologically sophisticated as ours, the most urgent projects require the coordinated contributions of many talented people working together" (Bennis, 1999, p. 73). As a result, leadership, decision making and strategic thinking should be defused at all levels (e.g. Senge, 1995; Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1988).
The growing recognition that leadership development is founded on the expansion of the collective capacity of the people of the organization to effectively engage in leadership roles and processes (Marion and Uhl‐Bien, 2001) also highlights its strategic importance for the organization (Tichy, 1997; O'Toole, 2001). Alas, the practice reveals that leadership development is not given a strategic role in most organizations nor it is treated as an integral part of the competitive strategy formulation process. Most organizations, even though they seem to recognize the importance of leadership development, they fall behind in actually achieving it, mainly because they still confuse leadership development with training (McClelland, 1994).
This inadequacy is pointed out by Conger (1993, p. 205) who portrays leadership development in most organizations as a "haphazard process", providing a number of explanations for his line of reasoning. For example, during the hiring process of young managers, only a few leadership qualities might be considered at best. Later on, a career path design might offer them occasional leadership experiences and, during their career, they might attend a very limited number of seminars on leadership, most likely still focused on leadership paradigms of the past, without actually incorporating a broader and coordinated systemic plan.
The same is true for the development of strategic competency, which comes late in the careers of most managers. Following years of narrow functional experiences managers do not acquire a true strategic perspective as the average company program spends little time on strategy skills, using mostly simple participative decision‐making exercises. Thus, the deeper appreciation for strategic issues, implemented mainly through action learning processes and actual experiences, is not accomplished. Furthermore, strategy training is reserved for senior executives, while junior managers should be exposed early to strategic decision‐making experiences (Conger, 1993).
However, for the successful implementation of their corporate strategy, firms need to develop the appropriate competencies in their people. As Becker and Huselid (2006) argue, employees are strategically important when they are able to contribute to a firm's strategic objective, by directly implementing the firm's strategy. Especially in the case of competitive corporate strategies, organizations need leaders at all levels (Segev, 1989; Snell and Dean, 1994; Youndt et al., 1996; Dess et al., 1997; Cameron and Quinn, 1999; Guthrie et al., 2002; Neal et al., 2005), since only then organization will exhibit the necessary flexibility and speed in decision making and they will be able to stand up to the high requirements of such strategies.
Leadership development as a complex phenomenon encompasses the interactions between the leader and the social and organizational environment (Osborn et al., 2002; Porter and McLaughlin, 2006) and embraces the development of a more systemic and collective framework in which leadership is developed in practice (Hernez‐Broome and Hughes, 2004). As Day puts it:
Leadership development can be thought of as an integration strategy by helping people understand how to relate to others, coordinate their efforts, build commitments, and develop extended social networks by applying self‐understanding to social and organizational imperatives (Day, 2001, p. 586).
Thus, leadership development is founded on the expansion of the collective capacity of the people of the organization to effectively engage in leadership roles and processes (Dixon, 1993; Marion and Uhl‐Bien, 2001).
Leadership development is not only the result of traditional, classroom‐type training programs, but rather the result of a series of well‐coordinated activities aiming at developing employees, by assisting them to learn from their work and from their superiors (e.g. Tichy, 1997; Beeson, 1998; Cacioppe, 1998; Yarnall, 1998; Bennis, 1999; London and Smither, 1999; Collier and Esteban, 2000; Day, 2001; Brown and Posner, 2001; Tichy and Cardwell, 2002; Ulrich and Smallwood, 2003). Also, leadership development should be integrated into everyday practices and thus become a part of the culture of the organization (e.g. McClelland, 1994; Senge, 1995; Tichy, 1997; Cacioppe, 1998; Conger and Benjamin, 1999; Brown and Posner, 2001; Tichy and Cardwell, 2002; Ulrich and Smallwood, 2003). It is also very crucial that the CEOs and line managers actively engage in the development of leaders at all levels.
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