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Keys for Successful Leadership Development

Lately, we’ve been partnering with leadership at organizations to design and deliver leadership development programs. It’s work we love, and is incredibly powerful when we are also working with the executive team themselves.

When organizations try to solve their leadership issues with stand-alone trainings like communication training or leadership development, without addressing what we call the three key focus areas, the results are mediocre at best.

Instead, the winning combination is when an executive team and leadership focus on three key focus areas:

  • The ME

  • The WE


When this happens, the leader personally develops, increasing both their IQ and EQ. The leader’s relationships improve in tough conversations, giving and receiving feedback, and even cross-functionally. Finally, the leader is developing in the context of the organization’s and business’s priorities.

The result: the leader, the team, and the business take a giant step forward.

Why is this combination so great? It’s because The ME, The WE, and The BUSINESS are the critical focus areas for transformation, innovation, and collective creativity.

Things to Consider

You may be considering what type of development you want to invest in for your organization. We want to share some key things to consider. Yes, we’d love it if you decide to partner with us to make that happen. But even if we aren’t going to get that opportunity, we think some of what we’ve learned might be helpful in making whatever you do work both for the individual, the team, and the overall business.

Know you want more information right away, we address these three focus areas in our book, The Beauty of Conflict.

What NOT to Do

Stand-alone training or development programs may support a leader/manager or employees’ personal development. However, rarely do they build the muscles and skills that are required to bring that new IQ and EQ effectively into the workplace to accelerate the performance of the team and the organization.

The Leader’s Challenge

It is always great when a leadership team is passionate, aligned and speaking a consistent, inspiring message. Vision and purpose are critical both to individual health and wealth and organizational success.

However, it’s equally valuable when leaders can disagree and have the strength to share their differing opinions. Being able to know you can speak up and contribute has an impact and is critical for long-term employee engagement.

The combination makes for a great team and/or organization. Any leadership development program needs to be providing support to enhance both of these areas.

The problem is these two equally valuable, transformative attributes:

  • Sharing an aligned message

  • Being willing to have a different opinion

These attributes are somewhat at odds with each other.

The classic team player may hold back their own voice, opinion, or concern to make sure other people stay engaged and aligned, to ensure everyone is happy.

The leader who is likely to speak up and share their contrary position or have a great new idea, is not always content to speak a unified message, unless it’s their message. They want their voice, their idea, to be in the foreground. They may not play well with others.

As leader on a team you want people who can do both. However, to cultivate both qualities as a leader you need a keen awareness and learning perspective that will work with, and through, blind spots.

The Best of Times

As we cover in our book, we believe there are three critical focus areas for leadership and team success: The ME, The WE, and The BUSINESS.

In any situation where there are two or more people attempting to get something done, it is critical that all involved have a solid understanding of each of these areas.

Usually we are skilled at one, maybe two, but under stress we tend to drop even our strength in communicating and working together.

When times are calm and stress is less it’s easier to pause and really consider each area.

The ME:

  • You are aware of what’s going on in you, The ME, meaning what you are really thinking, feeling and wanting.

  • Are you also able to track the impact you are having on others?

  • You are willing to speak up and share your unique position? Will you agree and disagree even at the risk of discomfort or rejection?

The WE:

  • When in an ideal situation, you are able to make space for the other by listening and considering alternative ideas.

  • You may check out your story with the intent of hearing an alternative point of view.

  • You’ll inquire and ask questions with the intent to ensure that all options are out on the table.


  • Finally, when all is good, you have a solid understanding of the context and the problem that is being addressed or attempting to be solved, The Business.

  • You work to get the team aligned and focused and rowing in the same direction.

Again, this is at your best. With stress, we each tend to drop one or possibly all of these critical focus areas.

The Alchemy

This is why it is so important to continually work on personal and leadership development for yourself and for your team. Your own leadership development alone is helpful. Though if done completely separate, without the team developing, it may not create the best organizational results.

Likewise, team building or team skill building is okay. It’s great to do, but if done separate from the real business issues and totally outside your business context, it may not be as transformative.

The challenge is finding ways to create time, attention, and intention to cover all three focus areas while together:

  • Developing The ME, by getting feedback from others

  • Dealing with The WE, by addressing real interpersonal breakdowns and conflict

  • Working on solving key strategic and tactical issues, The BUSINESS

Often this involves creating a development plan that brings together cross-functional leaders from within an organization. It can and should involve intensive time away from the day-to-day interruptions.

Key to Success

Sure, this isn’t always easy to accomplish. One way to ensure it happens is to start with the top, meaning the executive team. When the top of the organization models the importance of and steps into the training themselves, people will commit and amazing learning and development can take place. Plus, innovative solutions will emerge for real business issues.

The leaders and the teams that make sure this type of leadership development, relational health and strategic work happens create organizations that have a consistent, inspired, and aligned visions while also maintaining an engaged innovated workplace where people can speak up and work together.

That’s what you want to be, to understand that you have to be disciplined and honest about how well you are working on all three focus areas!

CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Check out their website: Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.

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