Leadership development is the process which helps expand the capacity of individuals to perform in leadership roles within organizations. Leadership roles are those that facilitate execution of an organization's strategy through building alignment, winning mindshare and growing the capabilities of others. Leadership roles may be formal, with the corresponding authority to make decisions and take responsibility, or they may be informal roles with little official authority (e.g., a member of a team who influences team engagement, purpose and direction; a lateral peer who must listen and negotiate through influence).
Traditionally, leadership development has focused on developing the leadership abilities and attitudes of individuals.
Different personal trait and characteristics can help or hinder a person's leadership effectiveness and require formalized programs for developing leadership competencies.
Classroom-style training and associated reading for leadership development may ail from the possible divergence between knowing what to do and doing what one knows; management expert Henry Mintzberg is one person to highlight this dilemma. It is estimated[by whom?]  that as little as 15% of learning from traditional classroom-style training results in sustained behavioral change within workplaces.
The success of leadership development efforts has been linked[by whom?] to three variables:
Military officer-training academies, such as the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, go to great lengths to accept only candidates who show the highest potential to lead well. Personal characteristics that are associated[by whom?] with successful leadership development include leader motivation to learn, a high achievement drive and personality traits such as openness to experience, an internal focus of control, and self-monitoring. In order to develop individual leaders, supervisors or superiors must conduct an individual assessment.
Development is also more likely to occur when the design of the development program:
Among key concepts in leadership development one may find:
Leadership can also be developed by strengthening the connection between, and alignment of, the efforts of individual leaders and the systems through which they influence organizational operations. This has led to a differentiation between leader development and leadership development.
Leadership development can build on the development of individuals (including followers) to become leaders. It also needs to focus on the interpersonal linkages in the team.
Following the credo of people as an organization's most valuable resource , some organizations address the development of these resources (including leadership).
In contrast, the concept of "employeeship" recognizes that what it takes to be a good leader is not too dissimilar to what it takes to be a good employee. Therefore, bringing the notional leader together with the team to explore these similarities (rather than focusing on the differences) brings positive results. This approach has been particularly successful in Sweden where the power distance between manager and team is small.
The development of "high potentials" to take over leadership when the time comes the current leadership to leave their positions is known as succession planning. This type of leadership development usually requires the extensive transfer of an individual between departments. In many multinationals, it usually requires international transfer and experience to build a future leader.
Succession planning requires a sharp focus on the organization's future and vision, in order to align leadership development with the future that the organization aspires to create. Thus successive leadership development is based not only on knowledge and history but also on a dream. For such a plan to be successful, a screening of future leadership should be based not only on "what we know and have" but also on "what we aspire to become".
Persons involved in succession planning should include current leadership members who can articulate the future vision. Three critical dimensions should be considered:
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