Leadership Isn’t Cushy (Human Development Required)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

There’s a powerful connection between responsible leadership and human growth and development. It’s not easily visible to leaders, so today I’m digging into how these important variables intersect and how they should inform our approach to leadership development. The first thing to notice is that the most important elements in good leadership aren’t about what you know – they’re about who you become. Reflecting on the challenges global leaders have faced in the past year, and what it has taken to meet them, we begin to see that “growing into” new capabilities is one of the essential keys to great leadership.

Leadership Isn’t Cushy

Leadership isn’t cushy. When we want to prepare leaders for success in the trenches of business leadership, we don’t get very far by providing a cushy “spa-like experience.” We can easily focus too much on creating “events” for leader education and miss the deeper preparation that leaders need.

“Leadership today is more than what you know. It requires the ability to adapt and respond to different circumstances and to connect with different kinds of employees, including employees of different ages and different cultural backgrounds.”

Mercer and Oliver Wyman, What the Future Demands: The Growing Challenge of Global Leadership Development, HBR Publishing

Mindset Rewiring Required

What prepares leaders to handle their tough everyday challenges? Success requires much more than knowledge building. It requires rewiring mindsets and developing new capacities. The best way to do that is through experiences that lead to real human growth. Leadership development should stretch leaders and help them develop the capacity to handle bigger challenges.

“This is no longer just a leadership challenge (what good leadership looks like); it is a development challenge (the process of how to grow “bigger” minds).”

Nick Petrie of the Center For Creative Leadership, Future Trends in Leadership Development, CCL.org)

Growth and Development Help Leaders Adapt

We are preparing leaders to handle a high degree of complexity and we need for them to consistently make ethical choices. At its best, leadership development is not an “event.” It’s a capacity-building endeavor. It’s a process of human growth and development.

“Stretch assignments are growth-oriented exercises with some inherent risk. They’re designed to push participants past their skill level.”

Erin White, How to Develop Future Leaders, Wall Street Journal

As workplace challenges continue to heat up, leaders can become the filament in the light bulb, overheating and burning out. Or, they can become capable of imagining more, doing and being more, and enabling others to accomplish more in challenging times. Only human growth will get them there.

This post includes some content from several previously published reader favorites.

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership


© 2009-2023 Leading in Context LLC

Join the Conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: