Leadership Development

Leadership development starts at a very young age and is a function of how one deals with the daily trials and tribulations of life and growing up. I see this as the basic foundation and basis for leadership development.

Being a Follower and Becoming a Leader

Organizational leadership is an art form with scientific principles applied. I do not feel that leaders are born. I believe that they emerge and are developed throughout real life experiences.

The skills required to develop leadership styles are enforced and reaffirmed through those childhood experiences and relationships. How one interacts with family, friends, and one’s peers is critical to forming the necessary personal attributes required to differentiate oneself between being a follower and a leader.

Follow the Leader

I personally can remember my elementary school years, when at daily recess, several of us boys would gather on the playground and, depending on the time of year, we would assemble teams to play football, basketball, or baseball.

The process of determining the makeup of these teams was done by choosing captains each day and then picking kids in alternating order until none were left. After years of going through this process a select few kids emerged as being the captains each day.

This generally was a result of the way that each of us interacted with the other captains and the process that we normally went through in order to pick our representative teams. We all shared a common goal and that was to win and basically succeed.

The Challenges of Decision Making

Strategy, planning, command, and organization were skills that each of us employed in attaining this ultimate goal of success on the field. In retrospect, I can look back at those days now and realize that we were also gaining the respect, loyalty, and confidence of those kids that we picked each day.

As we continued on into our high school years, these skills were refined and developed and were exemplified further through the relationships formed with our teachers and coaches.


One’s ability to take the stage and take charge brought about the challenges of decision making and delegation. There was also that feeling of personal satisfaction from being on a kind of pedestal and in a position of power. This position unfortunately led to some bad leadership habits of being more hands-on, controlling, and disempowering.

A methodology was developed and a mechanism put in place that put one in a position to do everything themselves and micromanage situations. This becomes a very hard habit to break, and we lose the ability to lead through trust, empowerment, and delegation. Not to mention, it is very stressful and time consuming to do everyone’s job. I somehow lost sight of this along the way.

I played Quarterback for three years in high school and took great pride and satisfaction in being a leader on the field. I worked hard at knowing what each teammate was responsible for on every play and could direct each as necessary through the complexity of the offense.

I knew that I could not personally do each of their jobs, but I could effectively direct each player in daily practice and during games to be effective and efficient in attaining our common goal, i.e. keeping me off the turf. Really, the goal was to win, but I did have an ulterior motive – I didn’t care to be hit very often.

Successful Leadership

Looking back and reflecting upon where I was in the development of my leadership style in those formative years, I see that somewhere in my journey to the present day, I got lost. I wasted time and energy doing other people’s jobs and didn’t fully reach the level of successful leadership that I thought I had attained.

I can truly say that I have come full circle from where I was in those early years of development. It really is pretty simple when it comes to being a successful leader and there is merit in the saying “treat others as you would want to be treated”.

Leadership is not about doing it yourself but about gaining trust and respect, and empowering the people you are leading. You will become a successful leader by directing, encouraging, and pulling them along in the process to make them successful. This will ultimately create a culture of happy individuals and a cohesive unit that will make the organization succeed.

How Has Your Leadership Development Worked Out For You?

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Jeff Carter
Jeff is the Plant Manager for Future Foam’s rebond facility in Dallas, TX with 20+ years of management experience. Comments are welcome at [email protected].