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In organizational development, leadership development is the strategic investment in, and utilization of, the human capital within the organization.

Day (2001) distinguished between leader versus leadership development.

Leader development focuses on the development of the leader, such as the personal attributes desired in a leader, desired ways of behaving, ways of thinking or feeling.

In contrast, leadership development focuses on the development of leadership as a process. This will include the social influence process and the team dynamics between the leader and his/her team at the dyad level, the contextual factors surrounding the team such as the perception of the organizational climate and the social network linkages between the team and other groups in the organization.

Both forms of development may mutually influence each other, as exemplified in the concept of "Deep Change" in Robert E. Quinn's 1996 book of the same title.

Typically, leader development has focused on 3 main areas - providing the opportunities for development, stimulating the ability to develop (including motivation, skills and knowledge for change), and providing a supportive context for change to occur (see Cynthia D. McCauley, 2001).

Leadership development can build on the development of individuals (including followers) to become leaders. In addition, it also needs to focus on the interpersonal linkages between the individuals in the team.

In the belief that the most important resource that an organization possesses is the people that comprise the organization, some organizations address the development of these resources (even including the leadership).

Leadership development can encompass any number of developmental processes including:


  • David V. Day (2000). Leadership Development: A review in context. The Leadership Quarterly, 11, 581-614.
  • Cynthia D. McCauley(2001). Leader training and development. In The nature of organizational leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Robert E. Quinn (1996). Deep change: Discovering the leader within. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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