Kenneth Eng on Developing Leaders and Leadership
Every executive development professional wants to develop leaders. But did you know
there’s a difference between leader development and leadership development? And regardless of
the similarity in name, there are more differences between them than you might think.
I became interested in this idea a few years ago after reading The Center for Creative
Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development.1 I immediately saw the value this concept
could add to executive development programs and began incorporating it in my consulting work
with Re/Max, the David Suzuki Foundation, Second Wave Sports, and North Shore Disability.
Let’s start with a few definitions as outlined in the handbook.
Leader Development: growth of an individual’s capacity to be effective in leadership
roles and processes.
Leadership Development: the increase of a group’s capacity to produce direction,
alignment, and commitment
McCauley and the editors of the handbook distinguish leader development as one aspect
of the broader process of leadership development. According to another author who specializes
in leader/leadership development, “Leader development focuses on developing individual
knowledge, skills, and abilities (human capital), whereas leadership development focuses on
building networked relationships (social capital) among individuals in an organization. What
most organizations term as leadership development should be more accurately labeled as leader
The reason this is important for executive development professionals and the programs of
which they are a part is that when we know with accuracy what we’re training for, we can design
activities that successfully train for that quality. If we want an activity to focus on leader
development, we would design it to strengthen intrapersonal skills. On the other hand, if we
want an activity to focus on leadership development, we would design it to strengthen
interpersonal skills. See the distinction?
As an illustration, it’s the difference between the following name tags:
Kenneth Eng of Vancouver, BC – Executive Development Professional
Kenneth Eng of Vancouver, BC – Executive
Reading those tags would automatically give us an idea of what the wearer does. Similarly, we
need to distinguish between the larger category of leadership development and the subset of
“But Kenneth Eng of Vancouver, BC – Executive Development Professional, I still don’t
see why it’s important to separate the two.”
Thank you for your input anonymous devil’s advocate. To further illustrate the importance of
the distinction being made here, let’s use something most of us can identify with.
I am going to give you a ball and you need to figure out what to do with it. At this point,
‘ball’ is a general term that could refer to anything remotely round that you throw or kick; the
ball could be used for any number of activities. Now I hand you a football, or a soccer ball, or a
baseball. Once you see the ball, you know exactly what to do with it. You wouldn’t use a
football to play soccer just as you wouldn’t use a soccer ball to play baseball.
This is the distinction we can make with leader development and leadership development
in our programs. Training for leadership is a broad term just like the concept of ‘ball’. But once
we separate leader from leadership – just like separating a baseball from a football – we know
what to do with, and how to train for, each activity.
This knowledge can help make our executive development programs more effective by
training for exactly the skills we want. No longer do we need to lump it all together and hope for
the best – or, at the worst, wonder where the program went wrong. I encourage you to
investigate these concepts further and feel free to contact me with any questions.
1) McCauley, C. D., Van Veslor, E., & Ruderman, M. N. (2010). Introduction: Our viewpoint of
leadership development. In E. Van Veslor, C. D. McCauley, & M. N. Ruderman (Eds.), The
Center for Creative Leadership handbook of leadership development (pp. 1–26). San Francisco:
2) Day, D. V. (2000). Leadership development: A review in context. Leadership Quarterly, 11,