Down to Business: The four stages of leadership development

Andy Singer - Speaking

The most challenging problems that organizations face such as competitive forces, globalization and lack of efficiency and effectiveness can only be solved by starting at the top of an organization. Leadership in the modern world is a complex matter and requires more than minimal basic management skills. Leaders need an ability to view the organization strategically, holistically and to develop long term solutions that solve current challenges. To ensure their long term survival organizations must assure they identify and move managers through the four stages of leadership development:

Individual Contributor – At this stage you build credibility and develop a network. It’s important to realize that ultimately, you and your network are one. Moving through this stage requires obtaining network building skills and using these skills to build a strong and broad network. Developing a reputation for performance, ethics and judgment is a key aspect of this stage. Additionally, obtaining a mentor early in your career can be essential to moving through the other stages of management.

Novice Manager – At this stage you need to fine-tune organizational and time management skills. If you are to lead others you need to be organized and have an ability to coach them to manage their time and projects efficiently. You are also optimizing your listening skills. One of the least practiced skills is effectual listening and to work with others you must be an effective communicator. You are also learning about your organizations rules of engagement, or culture.  It’s important to learn about culture at this and future stages. Your success as a transformational manager will require an ability to modify culture, which is no easy task.

Experienced Manger – At this stage you have mastered the skills required of previous stages and can begin taking a holistic view of the organization. You understand there are competing dynamics among various departments and stakeholders and you are learning how to manage these for more optimal results. At this stage your mentor can be more important than ever. There are limited opportunities to learn the required skills for this level of management outside of mentors and utilizing external coaching and development expertise. It’s important for leaders at this stage to be open to further development. Not all managers will be able to make the leap to a transformational leader.

Transformational Leader – At this stage you are able to take a holistic view of the organization and truly optimize results, both short term and strategically for the long term. The transformational leader will be able to recognize and help develop other managers within the organization and “groom” future leaders. Leaders at this stage create value for the organization. The transformational manger can use their developed skills with emotional intelligence.

Leadership development can be in two dimensions, horizontal and vertical. Horizontal development and expansion happens via training, schooling, reading and self-directed programs. This development is necessary and fairly common. Less common is a focus on vertical leadership development. Vertical development is about learning to change our interpretations of experiences and altering our views of reality. Transformations at these vertical levels are much more powerful and effective at developing transformational leaders. As an example, until we have people reporting to us and departments reporting though our subordinates, we can not truly understand what it means to manage organizations. Development at this level is a transformation of awareness. Think about what happens when you go to a place like a mountain top, or view a satellite image of an area. You can see details you never knew existed. To become a transformational leader you must experience management over an extended period, use self-reflection and be willing to take difficult action, including understanding you are not always right, which can be challenging for some “type A” personalities. Next week we will further explore how to help your managers and executives become transformational leaders.


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