“Human” leadership development: Your ultimate succession plan!

The CU world is paying a lot of attention to leadership development and succession planning these days. And that’s a good thing! Just be sure that along with the technical side, you’re making an equal investment in the human aspects of leadership. 

We’ve polled hundreds of CU leaders at all levels with our SL 15 survey. One of our questions is this:

“How important is emotional intelligence and inter-personal skill compared with the importance of intellectual intelligence, procedural knowledge and specific functional skills?”

This is the classic “hard/technical” versus “soft/people” skills question. So far the results are amazingly consistent…

Equally important: nearly 80%

“Soft” skills more important: nearly 20%

“Hard” skills more important: Less than 1%

But when I ask leaders in our workshops how much they invest in specifically training these skills they feel are so essential, the answer is overwhelmingly little––or none. And I’d argue that this is why only 34% of CEOs polled worldwide are satisfied with the return on their leadership development dollar. 

I draw a clear line between “management” and “leadership.” Management focuses on process––leadership is all about people. Both are important. My focus is on the human side––what it takes to be a genuine leader. 

Unfortunately and too often, classic “leadership development” leans heavily on the technical aspects that might be more properly labeled as “management training.” This is a critical distinction because as you know, not every qualified “manager” makes an effective “leader.”

We quite often see this when promotion is based completely or mostly on technical performance. For example, a top sales rep may have exemplary technical skills on the front lines, but may be sorely lacking in emotional intelligence and the interpersonal skills needed to lead others.

Leadership is about much more than personal achievement. Effective leaders have the ability to inspire, motivate and guide others to their highest levels of performance. 

So what does that take?

Above everything else: Respect, trust and loyalty.

What can you possibly accomplish as a leader unless you earn the respect, trust and loyalty of the people you serve?

The answer is––not much. Especially when you face any serious threats or challenges or when you’re called on to lead your team through change or disruption. 

The best leaders earn the respect, trust and loyalty of their followers by leading with courage, compassion and wisdom. 

From here we could easily move into a deeply philosophical discussion. Instead, let’s bring it down to earth and talk about what these things mean to you in real life––today!

Respect, trust and loyalty can be deep subjects––but they are also essential and practical commodities. Each of us can learn how to cultivate respect, trust and loyalty. We can break this process down to attainable, accessible and actionable strategies. 

Now if you’re satisfied with paper pushers, rubber stampers and strict order takers in positions of authority––you might not be interested in what I have to say next. But if you want genuine leaders, then see if your current leadership development addresses these essential areas:

Are you cultivating people who can inspire the best performance in others and motivate people to the highest levels of innovation?

Are you training emerging leaders in emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills including effective communication, conflict resolution and active listening?

Are you guiding them through the process of decision making?

Are you training your next generation of leaders about the process of formulating the right questions?

Are you training leaders at all levels to be effective mentors?


Are you continually exploring how to lead with courage, compassion and wisdom and developing specific strategies to embed these qualities in your leadership culture?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, or not really––you’ve got work to do.

Leadership is people before process. You lead people! And fundamentally, it is these people who make every process in your organization work. 

Jim Bouchard

Jim Bouchard

Jim Bouchard is an internationally recognized speaker, Leadership Activist, and founder of The SENSEI LEADER Movement™. He’s the author of 8 leadership books, and hosts Walking The Walk, a ... Web: www.armstrongspeakers.com Details