Leaders: Hold a Development Agenda

Talk about Leadership Complexities! Last week I interviewed Bob Anderson, creator of the Leadership Circle Profile, for the radio program hosted by Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership. (You can find the interview online at Voice America Radio, “Inside Transformational Leadership.”)

Very interesting conversation, as expected. Bob is a brilliant, honest, far-seeing man, and he cares about leadership. I enjoyed his ideas very much – thank you, Bob!

One of the key ideas that we talked about was what we are calling a requirement~ that leaders hold a development agenda. What does this mean?

For those of us who study adult development, we know that as we move through later and later stages, our capacity to hold and deal with complexity increases, and at later stages, we are considered postconventional. We also know that the majority of leaders in the world (about 70%) are conventional, not postconventional. Therefore, there could be some gaps in most leaders’ abilities to handle multiple complexities!

Bob’s research points to the notion that organizations are facing more and more complexity, and that organizations need postconventional leaders if they hope for any kind of organization transformation, or any increased capacity to manage all that is required of them.

A good question emerged: how can leaders continue to create inner capacity and outer mastery in a way that matches the complexities they face, and which seem to be increasing?

One possible answer that I can totally support: Hold a development agenda, for self-as-leader and for others. Help everyone develop as they want to or as their position requires.

Many leaders do not hold a development agenda.  Rather, they succumb to a belief that speed is best. Over the years what I’ve seen is that the developmental aspects of learning, and learning together in teams, often get chewed into time-wise, squeezed into meetings or retreats so that participants treat learning almost as an afterthought. Many leaders and teams focus on financials, strategies, and other business topics that rightfully deserve attention. But focusing on just these is insufficient if you want leaders and teams to develop.

Here’s the big question: how can a leader NOT focus on development? Wouldn’t leaders want to be able to better keep up with the complexities of today’s global business environment? Wouldn’t they want their colleagues and direct reports to be able to see a bigger picture and handle the complexities that surface?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then it’s time, leaders. The argument is clear. View development to be as important as dollars, numbers, and business strategies. And commit to development for yourself and all of those you influence.


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