The first step in successful leadership development

If you are ask many people working in leadership development to describe the most crucial first step in ensuring success you are likely to encounter answers like:

  • Choosing the right people to be involved in the program
  • Designing solid program content to address key competencies
  • Selecting the right trainers to conduct the program

Whilst all of these are factors in a successful program there is another more important step that needs to happen first. Getting the culture right so these new leaders can have an opportunity to apply their newly developed skills. 

This idea that developing leaders isn’t about leadership skills but about organisational behaviours is explored in a recent article on

“If things didn’t change, we wouldn’t need leadership: we could simply manage the existing, well-known process, doing the same thing over and over again in a nice, comfortable way. But things do change, and organisations must themselves adapt constantly to reflect this challenging fact of life. As the pace of change accelerates, we need leadership of a very high calibre to keep organisations relevant and successful. Leadership development programmes train leaders to meet this challenge. However, such programmes tend to exist in a kind of vacuum: leaders are ‘developed’ in business schools and then sent back in their new, improved state to an organisation that has not itself, by definition, moved on.”


I agree with this philosophy, which is why the number one item on my list of “10 keys to developing effective frontline leaders” is:

Creating the right culture so your leaders can thrive

Just as you can’t put a healthy plant in poor soil and expect it to do well, you can’t plant a new leader in your organisation and expect them to do well if the environment around them is unhealthy. No matter how skilled the leader or how effective the development program, without a culture that supports their growth they will struggle to succeed.

I see too many organisations that don’t take this important factor into account and then wonder why their frontline leaders praise their development programs but don’t make the necessary behavioural change to become more effective leaders.

To learn more about this and the other 9 keys to effective leadership development read by latest book “Greenhousing” available in print or ebook versions at


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