Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

This is part 4 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

John Maxwell states that, “everything rises and falls on leadership.”

Jocko Willink claims that, “the most important element on the battlefield is leadership.”

GEN (Ret.) David Perkins asserts that in every organization he has seen in his 38-year career, the one “essential sauce” that was needed for success was leadership.

If success on the battlefield, in the workplace, and in our lives comes down to leadership, how are we deliberately developing others and ourselves to become better leaders? How are we impacting the 2nd and 3rd generations of leaders in our organization? Developing our people to become better leaders is far too important to merely resort to passive means or to leave it as an afterthought. We must implement a defined leader development process.

Thus far in the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook, we first set organizational conditions, building readiness and opportunity for leader development. Then, we initiated a self-development plan in order to model development in our lives; it’s essential to develop ourselves before we can develop others.

Now, we implement a defined leader development process, which is block 3 of our leader development approach.

Leader Development Approach Graphic_3x5 Leadership

Leader Development is a Process

“Leader development occurs daily, not in a day.” This simple statement is a foundational concept for the creation of 3×5 Leadership and also serves to show that effective leader development is much more than a mere conversation, solitary event, or program. It must be a clear, yet complex process integrating several key developmental components. My preferred way to view leader development as a process is through a model offered by Forsythe & Spencer (2018) [1]; an adaptation of it is below.

Leader Development Process Model

  • Developmental Experiences: We grow as a result of our experiences, but not all experiences are necessarily developmental. Developmental experiences must offer challenge, support, and/or assessment. Challenging experiences force us out of our comfort zone, and make us stretch our skills and ways of thinking. Challenge, newness, and failure all offer rich developmental opportunities. However, developing leaders cannot remain in challenging experiences; they elicit strong emotions, so we must balance challenge with support. Leaders must support their people through things like failure to ensure they manage the emotional toll as well as maximize their learning and reflection from it. Finally, providing a healthy combination of challenge and support in experiences must be reinforced with assessment, or feedback. Developing leaders need input on their performance so they understand what attitudes, behaviors, and skillsets to maintain or to improve.
  • New Knowledge & Capacities: We develop leaders by shaping their attitudes, behaviors, and skills. Developing leaders can obtain new knowledge and capacities through their experiences. They can also gain them through training, education, and reflection.
  • Reflection: Preparation and reflection must be the bookends to every experience we offer our people. Experiences and new knowledge are not sufficient without reflection. Through reflection, our understanding of our ourselves, our environment, and our new knowledge is refined and even restructured in more meaningful ways. You can learn more about how to reflect in the Leader Reflection Series.
  • Time: Experiences, training, education, and reflection all take time. A single conversation or single event are not likely to change our lives. We need reinforcement and repetition to change our attitudes, behaviors, and habits.

I encourage leaders interested in learning more about leader development as a process to reference the “Process…Not Program” article by The Company Leader.

So, How Do I Enact This “Leader Development Process?”

This process model described above looks fancy and sounds good, right? Well, if you’re like me, you may still be asking: “so, how in the heck do I DO that?” That question is the whole purpose of this 3×5 Leader Development Handbook.

Below is the 3×5 Leader Development Matrix. This model takes the process components – developmental experiences, new knowledge & capacities, and reflection – and translates them into tangible activities for leaders to apply.

Leader Development Matrix Graphic_3x5 Leadership

The Matrix is made up of two main dimensions: domains and methods.

  • Domains: We define the areas, or domains, that we want to develop our leaders in. Similar to the roles we define that require focused self-development in part III of this Handbook, domains serve as the purpose and goals of our developmental process – in what ways do I want to develop my growing leaders? The defined domains must be in-line with our unique organizational context (industry, mission, vision, values, org. goals, etc.) and be nested with our higher headquarters’ intent.
  • Methods: These are the different and distinct activities that we can offer our developing leaders. Our methods can range in the types of developmental experiences offered (challenge, support, assessment) and balance all of the components of the development process (experiences, new knowledge, and reflection). Individually, one method is not sufficient for leader development, but integrating numerous methods over time creates a more comprehensive developmental process.

Time to “Look Under the Hood”

The domains and methods in the Leader Development Matrix, above, are not fixed. They are adaptable to your organization, the current season of performance and growth you’re in, and your driving goals. In the model above, I list “officership” as a domain, but it may not apply to your organization at all; we address the need to clearly define your domains. The next several parts to the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook deep-dive into the domains and methods of the Matrix, exploring common components to these and offering ways for other leaders to apply them. In the next post, we address the domains of development and also distinguish leader vs. leadership development, which is a key distinction to understand when defining our unique leader development domains and methods.

Lead well, friends!


[1] Forsythe, G. B. & Spencer, E. H. (2018). Leadership development: Growing effective leaders. In Smith, Swain, Brazil, Cornwell, Britt, Bond, Eslinger, and Eljdid (Eds.), West Point leadership. New York, NY: Rowan Technology Solutions.

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