Literal Thinking

Real stories of workplace follies

Personal leadership development framework applied

Posted by A Friend on 25 March 2009

Journey Over the last few weeks, a lot of the search traffic leading to this site has been around personal leadership development. We suspect this is mainly related to the personal leadership development framework we posted early this month, and we think it might be a good idea to provide our readers with an example of how this framework can be applied in real life.

A very important consideration to make is the framework is most useful for the individual leadership aspirant, and should thus be applied out of their own initiative. The individual should ideally try to get this framework to fit in the formal development models their organization may have for them (if any), but this is not a requirement (and the lack of one should not be made an excuse).

Ethan is a programmer in his late 20s who aspires to take on more leadership and management roles in his company, a boutique IT services provider. Ethan’s concern is he believes he lacks the soft skills required for a management or leadership position, even as he is readily recognized as a technical expert. Adding to Ethan’s worry is, as is typical of small firms, his company lacks a formal development plan for its employees.

Rather than wait for his company to provide the management and leadership exposure and training that might not eventuate, Ethan decided to be more proactive about his situation and sought his own learning avenues using our personal leadership development framework. Provided below are some of the main points that Ethan took out of this process (applied during a one year period).

Know and understand yourself

Ethan knew that he is a very good programmer and can continue to develop further technical expertise if he so wanted. This was the easiest pursuit for him as the development requirements would be closely related to his job description. However, Ethan wanted to slowly move into a management or leadership role. He understood that he is still lacking in both soft skills and business nous, so he determined that this is the main area of development that he was going to pursue.

On a personal level, Ethan recognized that, perhaps typical of a lot of programmers, he is not the most social of people. Ethan decided that it was time for him to go out of his comfort zone and try to be more social. Ethan thought that whatever social skills he can develop can also be good for him professionally.

Study leadership

Ethan was only starting out in his leadership and management journey, so he did not really know how and where to start in this area. As a starting point, Ethan decided that he was going to buy a leadership or personal development book that provides a good balance of theoretical and practical advice. After consulting some friends and colleagues, Ethan decided on Primal Leadership.

Ethan further decided that he was going to include the study of leadership and management as one of his major objectives for the year.

Find mentors and role models

Ethan had always wanted to have someone mentor him, but he had not really found anyone suitable. Ethan decided that it was going to be hard for him to find one in his workplace as for starters, they did not have a formal mentoring or development program. Ethan does recognize the importance of having a mentor or role model, and he made the conscious decision of finding one, even if it was going to be outside work.

Map out a personal development plan

Considering what Ethan felt were his immediate development needs (i.e. learning leadership and management theory and skills; and finding mentors and role models), he decided on the following three objectives for the year:

    Pursue a postgraduate management degree – the most logical development initiative given his goals; the timing was also good, as he anticipated business to slow down as a natural result of current economic conditions

    Become an active member of business related professional association – to help him both develop additional social skills and expand his professional network

    Join a local tennis club – mainly for development of interpersonal skills

Involve others

Ethan had to involve his manager in the decision to pursue further studies as he needed to make sure that this does not conflict with his work commitments. To his surprise, his manager offered partial subsidy; it turned out that the company had a budget for employees who wish to pursue further studies.

In school, Ethan was required to do a lot of group work. He found this exciting, especially because of the great diversity of his classmates. One of his group mates with whom he quickly developed a strong relationship with recommended him for membership to a professional management association.

Objectively assess outcomes

By the end of the year, Ethan saw that while he continued to do more of the same at work, he had grown tremendously from his out of work activities. He especially enjoyed the progressive interaction he had with his schoolmates, and his newfound acquaintances from both the management association and the tennis club that he joined. Ethan did not learn anything new from a technical perspective, but this is adequately compensated by the “soft skills” and the management and leadership knowledge he is starting to develop.

Critically analyze outcomes

Looking at the results of the year, it was clear to Ethan that, sooner or later, he will have to choose a particular path: technical competence, or leadership and management development. He could not have it both ways.

Reassess yourself

The year’s experience showed Ethan that while he has the established reputation for technical competence and can “safely” pursue this as a career, he is more interested in pursuing leadership and management roles. He is not sure if it is just a passing fancy, but he certainly wants to give it a shot.

– o –

The above is just a very high level view of how our proposed model can be applied. We would like to note two things: as per our example, the framework is not very difficult to implement; and it is best for this application to be an ongoing process.

In Ethan’s case for example, immediately continuing from the above, he slowly moved into a pre-sales and business development role in his company; and also became more involved as a volunteer in the professional organization that he joined. Directly related to this, he found a couple of good mentors: the managing director of his company with whom he is now working more closely with, and the president of the above mentioned professional organization.


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