Creating a multidimensional approach for successful leadership development is increasingly becoming a challenge in industries facing significant change. In my healthcare career, I have seen a great deal of shrinkage in the services healthcare centers and facilities offer. Just as consistent, administrative teams are reducing the expenditures of programs surrounding areas of staff development, both in a professional approach (such as for leadership) and a skills approach (OJTs). Leadership development is being left to minimal involvement with a growing focus on books, webinars, websites, assessments and articles. These things are great, so long as they are structured in a manner that strategically develops leaders.
When considering the topics of leadership development, there are a few core areas that should be reviewed. First, and foundationally, is leadership research. The focus and study of leadership research reveals a history of evolution of thought and approaches to leadership development. This includes strengthened assessments and models over time, as well as analyses on what successful and effective leaders have regarding traits, skills and behaviors.
As leadership research is broken down, the study of leadership styles can provide leaders with a great deal of information as they analyze their own leadership styles while considering the characteristics of other styles. This opens up expanded views and provides education to the leader on how to expand their own style. A lot of focus in leadership styles is centered on answering the question of ‘what style makes the most effective and successful leader’. Frankly, there isn’t a magic bullet style; it’s situational and individually based, which flows naturally into the next element of study in leadership development. Effective leaders have the finely tuned ability to apply situational leadership and contingency approaches, based on the situation, environmental variables, followers and tasks. The models in this area provide leaders with a pragmatic approach to the various situations that are frequently faced.
The next critical area of review for leadership development is understanding followers and employees. The key is to be able to identify follower and employee types, as well as understanding what traits, behaviors and characteristics that effective employees and followers possess. Understanding these items is like looking into a crystal ball; you can more accurately predict the likely success and struggles of an employee and/or group of employees.
The last, most critical, element is the alignment and optimization of the leader with the variables above. If a leader is able to develop the skills, traits, characteristics and behaviors of effective leaders while also developing their own leadership style, the leader’s development is immensely advanced. Stepping beyond these items, applying situational leadership gives the leader an entirely new level of transformative leadership through the ability to respond and effectively lead in rapidly changing environments. When you couple this with the understanding of individual follower and employee dynamics, the leader becomes deeply aligned with an effective leadership approach that is applicable in any environment. A great tool to address these areas is The Optimized Leader, as it is developed around these very topics, strategically structured to answer the challenges leaders face with a key approach: it applies to all leaders, individually more than (versus) all leaders, collectively.
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