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How Do You Develop Leaders? Practice, Practice, Practice

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Leadership isn’t just for leaders anymore. Top companies are learning that developing leaders to peak performance requires a continuous commitment. Management experts Drs. Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard define leadership as “working with and through others to achieve objectives.” To meet the demands of today’s fast-paced competitive business environment, nearly everyone is being asked to assume leadership behaviors.

Retired Harvard Professor John P. Kotter explained in the Summer 2004 issue of strategy+business, we must “create 100 million new leaders.” Companies are investing tens of millions of dollars in leadership development training to meet this challenge, with very positive results. Studies show companies that excel at developing leaders tend to achieve higher and longer term profitability (Marc Effron and Robert Gandossy in Leading the Way: Three Truths from the Top Companies for Leaders, John Wiley & Sons, 2004).

There seems to be as many approaches to leadership development as there are leadership developers. An Amazon.com search for leadership development books reveals 12,580 titles. Most leadership programs have a half-life of only a few days or weeks after sessions end. Few incorporate adequate transfer mechanisms to bring taught skills back to the office. Programs can offer everything from whitewater-rafting trips and bungee-jumping to encounter groups and 360-degree assessments. Executive coaching is a popular development tool, and companies are increasingly investing in these individualized programs.

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