Developing Leadership Skills

Most researchers support the idea that leaders are made rather than born.  To help making new leaders, the leadership development programs have been created to train potential leaders for core skills and provide mentor and support during the leadership practice.  Leadership development is the highest priority for many organizations because “the success of all economic, political, and organizational systems depends on the effective and efficient guidance of the leaders of these systems” (Parris & Peachey, 2013, p. 377).  Parris and Peachey (2013) stated that leadership is a skill; leaders use this skill to “influence followers in an organization to work enthusiastically towards goals specifically identified for the common good” (p. 377).  As any other skills, leadership must be learned and practiced.  Thus Cardillo (2012) concluded that “good leaders are developed through education and training, mentoring, and supported experience” (p. 12).

Although people can learn leadership skills from experience on the leaders’ positions, experience alone is not enough.  In organizations, the make of new leaders often starts from leadership development programs.  Based on studies of leadership theories and applications in various industries, Cardillo (2010) specified crucial leadership dimensions which include “delegation, decision making, problem-solving, inspiring, planning, persuading, teaching, initiating, self-managing” (p. 12).  These dimensions can be used as core components for a comprehensive leadership development program.  Through leadership skills development, leaders are expected to learn each aspect of the components; more importantly, once learned, new leaders must be given the opportunity to “put knowledge into practice in a supportive environment that includes feedback and advice” (Cardillo, 2010, p. 12).

The development of leadership skills is often specified and customized based on the difference of leadership roles and organizational operations.  For example, the leadership role for a community college department chair requires the leader to manage workers in various academic categories, thus creating an in-house program to develop community college chairs offers an advantageous solution.  Through the program, new leaders can learn how to manage and lead a contingency workforce of adjunct faculty whose needs and motivations may differ from that of full-time faculty (Sirkis, 2011, p. 48-49).   In another example, the skill development of Research and Development (R&D) leaders may emphasizes on the leadership of innovation and creativity.  As discussed in Carpenter, Fusfeld, and Gritzo (2010), R&D leaders must “value the unique characteristics and styles of colleagues, leveraging differences to create energy and spark innovation (p. 59).


Cardillo, D. (2010). Are good leaders born or are they cultivated?. New Jersey Nurse, 40(4), 12.

Carpenter, D. J., Fusfeld, A. R., & Gritzo, L. A. (2010). Leadership skills and styles. Research Technology Management, 53(6), 58-60.

Parris, D., & Peachey, J. (2013). A systematic literature review of servant leadership theory in organizational contexts. Journal of Business Ethics, 113(3), 377. doi:10.1007/s10551-012-1322-6

Sirkis, J. (2011). Development of leadership skills in community college department chairs. Community College Enterprise, 17(2), 46-61.

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