Why Invest In New Leaders?

The development of leaders, especially first time leaders, is an important function to both society and business. If you would like a free copy of our full white paper on developing emerging leaders, please fill out the registration form and we’ll email you a copy.

Emerging Leaders Whitepaper - An Introduction

In this paper, the definition of emerging leader is an individual who transitions from an individual contributor role to a manager or supervisor over the work of others. The inherent definition of leadership, therefore, for purposes of this paper implies leadership as the act of influencing, orchestrating, and coordinating the activities of a group to accomplish objectives. While leadership is widely recognized to be far more complex, and the act of leading does not require authoritative relationships within a formal structure, for purposes of this paper the emerging leader will have a managerial, supervisory, and an authoritative component to his or her leadership assignments.

There is little doubt that one of the most demanding positions of leadership is found at the first-time, or emerging levels. Obstacles faced by first-time leaders are complex, containing a host of issues to include problems such as:

  • Being a working manager.
  • Dealing with vague or incongruent instructions by upper management.
  • Leading one’s peers for the first time.
  • Resisting the urge to micromanage or simply revert to individual contributor tactics and do the work by oneself.

These, and several other issues, are compounded by the lack of training and understanding of what management and leadership in an organization is really all about. Often, the first time leader shockingly discovers management cannot fix every problem, or that management’s role is often far less glamorous and powerful than imaged. These delusional notions arise from a culture that sees power in authoritative hierarchical structures. As a result, first-time leaders are susceptible to discouragement, struggle with managing resources and relationships, and demonstrate a difficult time transitioning from individual contributor to leader. Organizations must therefore focus on development efforts that address the issues faced by emerging leaders at all points in the continuum. This includes setting expectations of what leadership is, providing tools that enable success for first-time leaders, and aligning the values, skills, and capabilities of leaders with the needs of the organization in a consistency with the culture.

Culture plays a significant role in leadership development. Peter Drucker [1] emphasized the importance of drawing on customs, cultures, histories, and the personality of an organization when building successful management processes and programs. Such efforts enhance the adoption of organizational mission and structures. Drucker called management a liberal art, and emphasized the social role management plays in the organization.

Management, in most business schools, is still taught as a bundle of techniques, such as techniques of budgeting […] The essence of management is to make knowledge productive. Management, in other words, is a social function. And in its practice, management is truly a ‘liberal art.’ [1]

As the modern society has moved more firmly into an information age, the role of management becomes the facilitation that makes information and knowledge productive on behalf of the organization. The concept of the social function of management [2][i], and then the use of the term ‘liberal art’ by Drucker suggests there is an importance to management and leadership which extends beyond the notion of simply promoting someone into a position and letting that person “do their thing.” In fact, research shows those who are not included in a carefully constructed development program have a reduced chance of success as a first time manager.

The purpose of this white paper is to provide a reference document for leadership developers. The contents of this paper synthesize over 50 articles, websites, research studies, and the personal experience of the author. In this paper three overarching themes emerge. First, there is a strong case for investing in leadership development. Second, there are a number of enterprise models that work and can be used to conceptualize new programs. Third, selection methods for emerging leaders are not easily packaged into quantifiable formulae, but rather identifying future leaders is intensely qualitative, process oriented, and requires long-term frames of reference.


This project was commissioned by A-dec’s Human Resource’s Organizational Development group. A special thank you to Sarah Petrone and Eileen Kunze who, in conjunction with George Fox University’s school of management, created a doctoral research opportunity with this project.

[i] Post-modern implications of leadership imply leaders are actors among other members of a social community. Leadership is, therefore, a fluid process requiring the ability to acquire and sustain social connections in vertical as well as horizontal relationships.

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