How to Accelerate Leadership Development

When we take into account the literature and research around leadership development, as well as our observations in practice, it’s clear that self-knowledge is a core element in managerial and leadership roles. Levels of self-knowledge vary between individuals, and those keen to develop know the importance of seeking out feedback on their work and performance.

1st May 2018

Anniina Kangas

In our day-to-day work as assessment consultants, we meet managers and leaders in a range of contexts. In settings such as interviews and 360 feedback sessions, it is always a privilege to talk more closely with these individuals and learn about what makes them tick.


What are the crucial elements for accelerating leadership development?

According to research, there are various elements alongside self-knowledge that impact leadership competence and support the development of an individual as a leader. Such elements include motivation, experience, and personality, as well as their cognitive skills. As leadership occurs in relationship with others, it naturally follows that social environment and different situational contexts influence development as well.


3 Factors that influence the development process

There are also aspects that shape the format and strength of development over time. 'Day et al'. (2014) highlight three key elements that impact the development process:

  • Feedback on own behaviour (e.g. via 360 reviews)
  • Stories about the self (self-narrative)
  • The extent to which an individual’s self-perception is aligned with others’ perceptions of them (self-other agreement).


Delivering an effective leadership development programme

Mentoring, coaching and 360 degree feedback are powerful ways to boost leadership development. While facilitating feedback discussions, it’s a pleasure to notice how positive feedback from managers and teams can incentivise those at an early stage on their leadership path.

Of course, there are times when receiving feedback can be challenging, especially when we learn about our own development areas. That’s why it’s important that feedback is handled professionally. When those facilitating the discussion have appropriate training, they can keep the session focused in a productive way. Their role is to ensure that the person receiving feedback is able to grasp new insights into their performance and behaviour. When this is achieved, the session will be meaningful to the individual and valuable to their development.


Creating a feedback culture

Without a doubt, leadership development is a crucial way to strengthen the competitive advantage of your organisation. This means there is obvious value in investing in the feedback culture of an organisation. Without an open feedback culture, it is almost impossible to aid your people in building the self-insight they need to develop.

While many people are keen to enhance their work behaviour, you should make sure that your feedback culture doesn’t only focus on development areas. It’s also vital that your people recognise and more effectively make use of their strengths. Very often success is based on the utilisation of strengths in particular. There should be active discussion within any organisation around what kind of feedback culture they desire, support and then build for their people. When this ethos is embedded throughout HR processes such as recruitment, training and performance management, you’ll form a culture that truly supports continuous development.

We should also acknowledge that both giving and receiving feedback can be challenging and requires a lot of courage from both parties. Many organisations consciously develop their feedback culture by trying different methods, such as micro-feedback tools or engaging in regular 360 processes and sharing the results – for instance, among board members.     

Additionally, it is helpful when managers consider how they can reflect on their own experiences to enhance their day-to-day work.

 Good questions might include;

  • “What is my role in this specific scenario?”
  • “How effective was I as a leader in this situation?”
  • “What different approach could I have taken, and how would that have impacted the situation?”
  • “What did I learn about my leadership skills in this scenario, and what might I do differently in the future?”


All in all, leading others is demanding work and requires complex interactions with different people, and in diverse situations. The nuances of organisational contexts, individual personalities, cultures, generations and much more, mean that one size will never fit all. Leaders and managers need to be agile in adapting their own styles according to these changing demands.

For this reason, it is important that leaders are aware of their own style and can find ways to flex it in different situations. Some may question to what extent we are able to adapt the style inherent to us, but I personally believe that with self-knowledge, people can develop and broaden their approach. However, this always requires personal motivation, learning agility and organisational support. The work styles of leaders and managers derive from different experiences and influences, and a good development programme should always recognise the personal needs of the individuals involved.      


How does your organisation ensure that people get timely feedback in order to develop management and leadership skills? How do you provide feedback in your daily work? 

To discover more about developing your leaders, contact your local Cubiks team today, or send an email to and we’ll get back to you.



  • Day, D.V., Fleenor, J.W., Atwater, L.E., Sturm, R.E. & McKee, R.A. (2014). Advances in leader and leadership
    development: A review of 25 years of research and theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 25, 63-82.
  • McCauley, Cynthia D., et al. (toim.) (2013). Experience-Driven Leader-Development: Models, Tools, Best Practises, and Advice On-The-Job development. Wiley.

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