Good leaders are needed at all levels of a business to guide the enterprise, manage change, and get the work done everyday.  

How long does it take to develop a good leader? Honing the right leadership skills can take a lifetime. A person doesn’t become an effective leader overnight simply by going to a leadership course or reading a book. Effective leadership requires constant development.

The development of a leader starts the moment you hire him (or her). Be sure to observe how he handles himself, how he works with others, and how others see him.
Continue to observe those behaviors, noting the initiative he has for taking the lead and accepting more responsibility.

The worse thing we can do is promote somebody without giving him the tools to learn and develop. Typically, businesses practice what has been called the “Peter Principle,” promoting people to their next level of incompetence. For instance, a dairy may promote someone because he has been good in a previous role — many times, a technical role like best milker or best breeder — but do we slow down to assess his interpersonal and leadership abilities? 

Some of the best employees flounder in their new role as a leader because they don’t have the abilities, they can’t see what they are doing wrong, or they are not given the proper development.

Here is a simple process for fostering leadership development in your business:

1. Identify who the key leaders are for the business (not only those already in leadership positions, but also those with potential to step into the role).

2. Create a yearly development plan for all leaders, including yourself. Be as specific as possible about where the person needs to grow (conflict management, delegating effectively, listening).

3. De-brief everyday experiences on how problems and
situations were handled:

  • What was the situation?
  • How did you handle it? What did you do well?
  • What would you do differently next time?

4. Provide feedback to your managers on their behaviors and how modifying those behaviors will make them more effective as leaders.

5. Engage in leadership-development sessions throughout the year

6. Have people read materials on leadership and management (Web sites, books, magazines, articles, newsletters).

Here are some of the areas that leaders may need further development:

  • Communication skills (listening, speaking effectively).
  • Delegating effectively.
  • Developing trust.
  • Building a culture of commitment to the business.
  • Engaging others through their values and vision.
  • Conflict management.
  • Managing change.
  • Organizational skills.
  • Decision-making and problem-solving.

Leadership starts at a personal level.   Leaders must first understand themselves, and then be clear about who they are and what they stand for — and what they won’t stand for. 

You must be willing to grow yourself before you can expect others to do the same.

Jorge Estrada is an organizational development consultant and leadership coach with Leadership
Coaching International, Inc. He can be reached at
360-481-0133 or