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Follow Up: The Key To Leadership Development

5 min read

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Published January 03, 2022

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Picture of Jessica Wishart

Jessica Wishart
Senior Product Manager at Rhythm Systems

"The leader of the past was a person who knew how to tell. The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.” - Peter Drucker

I recently read a report called “Leadership is a Contact Sport” based on a study completed by Marshall Leadership DevelopmentGoldsmith and Howard Morgan on the effectiveness of leadership development. They studied different types of leadership development programs in eight different large companies in various industries (including some international corporations); the leadership development activities studied included onsite and offsite executive coaching, long-term and event-based learning, formal classroom training and on the job training. From this study, the researchers determined that successful leadership development programs had one thing in common in their leadership journey - follow up.

Whether or not the customized  leadership development program was effective was not based on feedback from the participant, but from a preselected group of their colleagues and other stakeholders from various business units who were asked to complete surveys about the participants. The programs that resulted in increased leadership capabilities that could be observed by others all contained an element of ongoing interaction and follow-up with coworkers. Leaders who discussed their own developmental priorities with others, and then followed up with them on a regular basis, were the ones who showed marked improvement.  It makes sense as communication is one of the most important skills for high potential leaders to develop to further their leadership ability.

“Follow-up” in the study was defined as the leader’s continued effort to solicit feedback from coworkers on how he or she can improve. Leaders who ask for input are perceived as caring about getting better and, not surprisingly, tend to illicit a more positive reaction from colleagues than those who do not ask for feedback. Coaching was shown to be an effective impetus for increased follow up with colleagues; participants who had a coach that followed up with them were more likely to seek feedback from their coworkers more often.  The leadership development experience is much more effective with a continual feedback loop, so that you can get a little better each time.  An effective leader will always be looking for leadership training (or leadership training programs) through a variety of source to wo.rk on their leadership schools

The study reflects that leadership development is a process, not an event… something we say all the time to our Rhythm clients. In fact, we have a great process in place that can help you maximize your investment in leadership development, whatever that may be. Regardless of the type of leadership development program you are implementing, you can use our Performance Coaching tool to help your leaders get in a rhythm of continuously working to improve specific leadership behaviors that you are trying to cultivate. You can pick peer coaches to help you stay accountable, and remember to ask other colleagues for feedback as you work to improve specific leadership skills.

You can take accountability for improving your leadership skills over time to the next level by recording them in your Rhythm dashboard. You can set a specific leadership development goal for yourself and record it as an Individual Priority in Rhythm. Goldsmith and Morgan report that “For most leaders, the great challenge is not understanding the practice of leadership: It is practicing their understanding of leadership.” It is a question of executing leadership principles you already understand in most cases, and what better way to execute on your leadership development goals with discipline and focus than by tracking them in Rhythm.

Most senior leaders haven't necessarily gone to business school, so they learn how to be an effective leader working on it on a day to day basis using the tools that they have available, and many can't rely on their human resource department.  Good luck, and feel free to follow up with us to let us know how your leadership development is going!



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