Leader versus Leadership

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Leader versus Leadership

  1. 1. 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 development.”2 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 leader development.
  2. 2. “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. References 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: Wiley. 2) Day, D. V. (2000). Leadership development: A review in context. Leadership Quarterly, 11, 581-613.

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