Why Invest in Leadership Development?

LeadershipWhy Invest in Leadership Development?

Perhaps my most enjoyable assignment in my 24 year Army career was a Senior Personnel and Leader Developer. I had the privilege of traveling the country briefing Soldiers on personal and professional development issues. I sat down with senior Army leaders to discuss and establish organizational development goals covering key points such as professional military education, civilian education, and Soldier development programs.

What I enjoyed the most was the one-on-one interaction with troops during breaks or at the end of the day where they could openly ask questions they did not want to ask during my seminar. Whether I was briefing on the east coast, west coast, or the mid-west, one thing was very clear, individuals were hungry for leader development. The unfortunate fact is, however, that most people do not get it at the level at which they truly need it.


Leader development is a deliberate, continuous, sequential, and progressive process, steeped in organizational values. It grows employee into competent and confident leaders capable of decisive action. Leader development is achieved through life-long blend of the knowledge, skills, and experiences gained through training and education opportunities the three pillars of leader development which are institutional training, operational experience, and self-development

Institutional Training is the formal education an employee receives through institutions of higher learning and formal organizational training programs. The purpose of institutional training is to provide a framework or basic principles behind the things we do.

Operational experience is simply learning by doing or leadership in action. It means taking lessons learned and turn them into new and effective ways of doing business. Operational experience also includes seeking mentorships from others in the industry.

Self-Development focuses on maximizing personal strengths, over-coming weaknesses, and achieving individual development goals. This can be as simple as reading a book on how to close a sale or studying a technical manual.

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So why is leader development so important? Just as people are not all born with the ability or desire to play sports, not all people are natural born leaders. Different personality traits and characteristics can help or hinder a one’s leadership effectiveness. It requires formalized training, experience, and guidance to develop and shape effective leader competencies.

Perhaps former Chief of Staff of the Army, General Edward C. Meyer said it best, “Just as the diamond requires three properties for its formation—carbon, heat, and pressure—successful leaders require the interaction of three properties—character, knowledge, and application. Like carbon to the diamond, character is the basic quality of the leader.… But as carbon alone does not create a diamond, neither can character alone create a leader. The diamond needs heat. Man needs knowledge, study and preparation.… The third property, pressure—acting in conjunction with carbon and heat—forms the diamond. Similarly, one’s character attended by knowledge, blooms through application to produce a leader.” The bottom line is this; leader development is a process or constant learning and development.

Here are some key points for an effective leader development program:

Commitment. Leader development training its more than a once or twice a year event. It’s a long-term investment for the future that requires a high level of time and dedication. Commitment, however, goes both ways here. An organization must pledge the time develop its employees, and employees must buy into and commit to their own self-development.

Formal and Funded. Part of an organizations commitment to leader development is developing, planning, and executing formal training. This can be done internally or using an outside organization to train. Either way, a certain level of capital must be set aside to ensure the training happens.

Mentorship. A huge piece of the operational experience pillar is mentorship. Mentorship starts at on-boarding and continues throughout an individual’s career regardless of their level within the organization. Mentorship can come from within the company or even from mentors externally within the same industry. Either way, good leaders learn from the successes and failures of themselves and others.

Leader Rotation. I have seen it time and again where leaders are afraid to put too much time in developing their employee. The fear is that the better job they do in developing young leaders, the more likely they are to become irrelevant to the organization and replaced. First, if this is your thought process, you might need to move on anyway. Second, you owe it to your future leaders to show them how to lead within the organization. What better way to learn how a company operates than rotate within each department. This in leadership in action!

Best Practices. Great organizations are always looking for ways to improve processes and practices. It takes engaged leaders on the ground to track what is working, not working or could be done better. The same applies to current management processes. These best practices need to be shared with leaders at all levels in the organization and applied towards the company’s success.


With over 110 years of military leader development experience behind us, let Forward March Inc., help you achieve your leader development goals. We offer varied types of training courses tailored around your needs, ranging from one-on-one professional coaching, to on-site group training, that bring a “boot-camp” style of training with a fun flair. It’s not just training, it’s a commitment to organizational excellence!

~ Article written by Jason Caswell, Forward March Inc – Director of Training and Talent Pipeline Services

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