Articles on Leadership

Empowering Leadership At Every Level ™

Distinguishing Between Leader and Leadership Development

Distinguishing Between Leader and Leadership Development

By Suzi Skinner

The focus on leader development versus leadership development is one fraught with misperceptions. So I was delighted to read the review of leadership theory and research conducted by Day, Fleenor, Atwater, Sturm & McKee (2014) supporting the divide between leader as intrapersonal and leadership as interpersonal research/development areas.

They explain the distinction as follows:

“Leader development focuses on developing individual leaders whereas leadership development focuses on a process of development that inherently involves multiple individuals (e.g., leaders and followers or among peers in a self-managed work team)” (p. 64).

Their review, which covered over 25 years of publications within the Leadership Quarterly, recommends that we need to focus on individual leader development – in the context of adult development – as much as we focus on the processes of leadership between individuals. This distinction is important given the vast amount of research data focused on between individual processes, for example the impact of leader behaviours on followers, on teams, on organisations and so forth.

Leader development instead looks at what is happening within the person – their thinking, predispositions, identity, self-awareness and behaviours that can enable their leader development. In the context of adult development the paper recognises that there is still so much we don’t know about leader development including areas such as formative life experiences and internal implicit cognitive structures. Factors such as these represent ongoing research opportunities.

View the research by Day, Fleenor, Atwater, Sturm & McKee

Clients we work with

21st Century Fox
Ariel Group
Australian Unity
FEW Financial Executive Women
Institute Of Coaching
Kimberly Clark
Moet Hennessy
Paramount Pictures
Southern Cross Care
SunRice Group
Sydney Business School


You will receive quarterly promotions and news. Unsubscribe with one click.