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Organizations must develop stronger leaders.  They must prepare future leaders as well. These are facts backed up by story upon story played out in our news daily. No matter what industry, leadership development continues to be a top priority for savvy businesses across the country.  Most of us have experienced some piece of our country’s collective economic downturn, some more than others.  Leaders persevere through challenge and adversity.  This is why organizations need to cultivate a strong bench of leaders who can drive their organizations no matter if the times are celebratory or contentious.

How do organizations address this need effectively? Everyone seems to have a leadership philosophy or leadership approach these days.  With all the options, how do executives know the proper way for their organization?  How do leadership development specialists implement executive plans?  I argue that good leadership development does not begin with a vast understanding of every single leadership competency available or require an overcomplicated dissection of millions of philosophies.  It does require a clear understanding of your audience, not someone else’s.  What do leaders in your organization need?  What do they need to maintain things as they are?  What do they need to move above and beyond?

Knowing your leaders begins with conversation.  You may think you know your organization, but I urge you to not fall into that trap.  Assume nothing and ask everyone!  Ask leaders what their strengths and weaknesses are.  Ask their employees too.  Talk, talk, talk to everyone about everything.  This may seem superfluous, but at a higher level people reveal some amazing organizational facts in regular conversation.  Motivations, desires, wants, plans, and strategies are all there for you to discover.

Once you’ve begun the conversation, start pairing what people reveal with the competencies that help make things happen.  From there, develop a framework of competencies that range from general to specific.  Avoid focusing on one specific job title or role.  Instead, start by building a strong foundation that can be shared by all leaders then build out from there.  Your finished product will be customized specifically for your organization and will get results because it was created by your leaders for your leaders.