In 2012 I felt the need to explore a new type of leadership development opportunity but was finding a lack of quality options in the marketplace to meet my needs. As a leader who thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to stretch and grow, I’ve always gravitated toward academic institutions that focus on leadership development and business courses when I look outside the walls of Talent Plus ®.
However, these weren’t what I wanted this time. I wanted something more – something substantial that would be more lasting, experiential and allow me to develop relationships at a deeper level with other leaders who felt a deep sense of calling to leadership. In a conversation with my colleague, Kelli Wood, we started to explore the idea of a cohort-based leadership development model. Not a class or a 5-day course but something more robust. As the idea began to take shape, I proposed the idea to my team: “I’m looking for a type of development that I’m not finding out there; I think we should create this.”
Hence, the concept of Leadership Plus was born. As one of the designers and participants of Leadership Plus, it has been everything that I envisioned it could be. Highly talented, high-potential leaders gathering together to explore relevant leadership topics. Learning from one another, pushing one another outside our comfort zones and walking this journey called leadership together. Additionally, participants benefit from expertise of Talent Plus’ study of over 60,000 leaders across the globe. In Leadership Plus, leaders spend time analyzing and reflecting on their unique leadership style and focus on how to better coach and lead others through utilizing the principles of strengths management. In addition, topics around organizational leadership are addressed – what does it mean to bear the responsibility of the culture of the organization and how can you take care of the needs of all stakeholders as you do business? Finally, leaders spend time carefully thinking through the legacy they are building – both in their current organization but also their legacy as a whole. Leadership Plus offers the gift of time – time to actually think through these important topics, learn from vested faculty and get feedback from other talented leaders.
I encourage you to pursue great experiences that enliven and fuel you as a leader. While I believe Leadership Plus is the best out there, it’s not feasible that all leaders experience it or that it is the right fit for everyone. As you think through your options, I recommend that you evaluate your options against the below criteria:
- Science: Does the program/experience employ any scientific instruments as part of the application process? Programs that use scientific instruments either to increase the caliber of participants or help knit together cohorts are likely to provide you with a better quality experience.
- Relationship Based: Look for development opportunities that allow you to nurture relationships. This is a step beyond more casual networking. Cohorts, when done right, will facilitate extremely effective connections and even friendships that can become part of the fabric of your future professional growth. You need to have around you strong leaders that are removed from your day to day to provide you with context and to help you navigate the bigger picture of your leadership journey.
- Longer-Term Experience: Two-, three- or even five-day “seminars” have their place and there are certainly many that I have enjoyed and found helpful. However, if you want to take your development to the next level, look for opportunities that take place over an extended period of time e.g. 9 -18 months. Look for continuity and an experience that provides between session opportunities to practice learning, as well as continued focus and reflection on specific topics.
- Practical Expertise: Often the study of leadership is very theoretical or teach too many “the five steps to handling conflict.” Look for institutions that are able to help bridge theory with practice and provide opportunities for great ideas to take root. It is fine to learn about theories but you need to ensure that time is being spent allowing you to process through what that means to you on a daily basis.
- Strengths Management: As you learn about leadership there are a lot of “do this” and “don’t do that” types of advice, research etc. This is all well and good. However, there are a lot of ways to achieve an outcome, and you need to better understand your natural impulses and instinctive behavior patterns, and as much as possible stay in your lane. Be wary of programs that promote changing you, rather look for opportunities to further explore what you already do well naturally.
In sum, I encourage you to be a purpose-driven leader. To lead with great purpose, you need to carve out time to cultivate your unique style and strengths. Leadership is one of the most complex professions, especially senior leadership in which leaders are responsible not only for organizational growth and prosperity but also for the growth and prosperity of their employees. I encourage you not to let this next year just happen to you as a leader but to really invest in yourself so that you can be your best for the people and organization that rely on you. Seek out new ways to refuel and challenge yourself, and step away from the day to day for a bit so that you can accelerate your growth for the future.
Libby Farmen, M.S.
Chief Consulting Officer
Leadership Plus is a year-long cohort intended to take a deep dive into the study of talent and leadership. If you are interested in applying for Leadership Plus or simply want to learn more, please visit us .
Libby Farmen, M.S. works as the Chief Consulting Officer for Talent Plus, overseeing consultants, interviewers and quality specialists. Using a growth-focused approach, Farmen works to provide integrated front line, manager and senior leader solutions for our client partners, specializing in creating innovative growth plans for leaders and employees.