How young leaders are developing themselves

I have started to conduct research with young leaders about what they want out of a leadership development program.

It’s still early days but one of my insights is that young, future leaders are not waiting around for the organisation to offer them an invitation to join a formal development course.

They are developing themselves.

Young leaders are watching TED talks, joining in Linked In Groups, listening to Podcasts, watching You Tube videos and enrolling in free MOOC courses from universities to name a few examples of DIY self-development.


– It’s more often than not – free

– Needs based i.e. they can acquire the new skills and tools when they need them

– It’s timely i.e. they can learn and apply these skills right now rather than waiting for a spot on a course to be available.

– Developing yourself means that you can enrol or listen to programs or talks that interest and engage you. The moment it stops being useful or interesting you can stop.

Young leaders therefore have the control.

– They can choose to hear from the best.

Want to learn more about Emotional Intelligence for example, then why not listen to Professor Daniel Goleman rather than someone who may have a working knowledge in the area?

– It’s often good enough for the task at hand.

Young leaders tell me that they often need sufficient and practical advice with a situation to help them make progress. It does not have to be perfect but enough information for them to start, learn and grow.

For example:

They may not have ever recruited someone to their team but there is sufficient information via Google to help them make a great start.

Next time they will be better.

But they have made a start.

Here are the plusses of the DIY leadership Development trend:

Young leaders can decide when, what and how they wish to be developed and from who.

It’s faster, cheaper and often more engaging than traditional approaches.

But senior leaders beware.

Young leaders suggest to me that because they are developing themselves without the help of the organisation this makes them more employable and more likely to move to another opportunity.

It also may mean that young leaders are investing their time in areas that may be of limited value to the organisation (e.g. Game Theory).

Hence DIY leadership development is a double-edged sword.

It can be great for young leaders and the organisation but it does have its pitfalls.

A much better approach is to try and blend corporate development with DIY and create a win – win.

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