How to create the conditions for leader-driven development

Insight shared by:

Kiddy & Partners

In today’s rapidly changing and unpredictable work environment, the ability to learn and adapt is a critical capability.

Leaders need to take on new challenges and learn novel skills in order to respond effectively. Additionally, with the increasing disruption and transformation that emerging technologies and artificial intelligence are bringing to ways of working, it is vital that employees continue to develop and adapt their skill set in order to stay ahead and remain effective.

Organisations and talent managers have a responsibility to provide opportunities and create the right conditions for ongoing learning and development, but the ownership for driving their personal development should lie with the individual.  Yet all too often, development plans remain just that – plans, which aren’t acted upon.

Leaders need to take ownership of their personal development

Employees who feel a sense of purpose from their work, aligned with their motivations, are more engaged [1]. A key driver for this comes from growth opportunities – organisations and managers giving employees the space to learn, experiment and – critically – fail in order to learn and improve. Encouraging employees to take ownership of their development helps to build their fulfilment and motivation, which in turn increases the quality of learning [2], thus increasing their engagement towards development and motivation to put their learning into practice. 

Ensuring employees take ownership of their career has greater business benefits too; the ability to regularly reflect on their role and performance, and be self-aware of their strengths and development areas, has been linked to greater effectiveness at work [3].

However, organisations and their managers have a critical role to play in the development of their people: not only do they need to provide stretch opportunities, they must also create the right conditions and environment to enable their employees and leaders to drive their career development. 

To encourage individuals to take ownership of their personal development, talent managers should:

  1. Share the vision and communicate the ‘why’: When employees understand the bigger picture and how their role plays a part in organisational success, they are more likely to be committed and engaged [4].  
  2. Give them true ownership: Avoid micromanaging, which is detrimental to the learning process. It prevents employees taking initiative and instead promotes the need for them to seek guidance and continuously check in. Giving them accountability for their development will help build ownership.
  3. Create psychological safety: Creating psychologically safe environments, where people feel able to make mistakes without fear of judgement, helps to promote a culture of learning from failures [5]. Conversely, in a blame culture, employees will not admit mistakes or acknowledge development areas. Owning mistakes and sharing the learnings will help employees build their capability, increase the chances of future success, and improve their organisational performance [6, 7]. 
  4. Lead by example: The behaviour of leaders strongly influences the behaviour and performance of their teams [8]. In other words, to encourage ownership and action of development activities, leaders need to demonstrate that they also prioritise their own development. Leaders who demonstrate learning new skills, working outside of their comfort zone, owning and sharing learnings from mistakes will help employees feel empowered and motivated to take ownership of their development. 

To leverage emerging technologies and respond to the rapid pace of change, organisations and their people need to continuously develop. The responsibility and ownership for development lies with the employees, but organisations and talent managers need to create the right environment for development.  

When employees understand the potential pathways for progression and the steps they need to take to get there, they feel empowered to take more ownership over their development. As leadership experts, we define the leadership capabilities organisations need, assess leaders against these capabilities, and deliver ambitious acceleration programmes to fast-track leaders’ development. As part of our approach, we encourage leaders to take ownership of their career and development and equip managers to create the right environment to allow development and learning to take place.

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  1. PwC. (2018). Making work more meaningful: Building a fulfilling employee experience.
  2. Figueira, A. I., & Duarte, A. M. (2011). Increasing the quality of learning through changes in motivation. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 29, 1373-1379. Nesbit, P. L. (2012).
  3. The role of self-reflection, emotional management of feedback, and self-regulation processes in self-directed leadership development. Human Resource Development Review, 11(2), 203-226.
  4. Chai, D. S., Hwang, S. J., & Joo, B. K. (2017). Transformational leadership and organizational commitment in teams: The mediating roles of shared vision and team-goal commitment. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 30(2), 137-158.
  5. Boylan, S. A., & Turner, K. A. (2017). Developing organizational adaptability for complex environment. Journal of Leadership Education, 16(2), 183-198.
  6. DiMenichi, B. C., & Richmond, L. L. (2015). Reflecting on past failures leads to increased perseverance and sustained attention. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 27(2), 180-193.
  7. Tjosvold, D., Sun, H. F., & Wan, P. (2005). Effects of openness, problem solving, and blaming on learning: An experiment in China. The Journal of social psychology, 145(6), 629-644.
  8. Kaiser, R. B., & Overfield, D. V. (2010). The leadership value chain. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 13(3), 164.

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