In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Leadership Development

  • Introduction
  • Books
  • History
  • Research Reviews
  • Leader Development: Experience
  • Development of Leader-Follower Relationships
  • Leadership Development: Team and Organization Level
  • Self-Development
  • Context for Leadership Development
  • Women’s Leadership Development
  • Organizational Outcomes of Leadership Development

Management Leadership Development
David Day, Darja Miscenko
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0092


The scientific study of leadership development examines how individuals and collectives develop greater capacity to be effective in leadership roles and processes. Embedded in this general description are different levels of analyses. When the focus is on developing individuals the appropriate referent is leader development, whereas the development of collective leadership capacity is termed leadership development. In general, more attention has been paid to the field from the perspective of practice (i.e., identifying processes, practices, and interventions designed to enhance the development of leaders and leadership) than to scholarly approaches, although the latter have begun receiving greater attention. The leadership development field differs from that of leadership in that the former is less concerned with identifying which particular theory of leadership is most supported. Instead, the primary focus is on change and development that enhances the potential for greater leadership effectiveness. As noted, leader development focuses on the development of individuals as leaders (including their self-views, skills, and abilities), whereas leadership development involves developing a broader shared capacity for engaging in leadership processes. We distinguish between these two broader focus areas wherever possible.


Most of the books on leadership development have more practical rather than academic emphasis, and there are no standard textbooks on the topic. McCall, et al. 1988 is an early landmark book in the field that advanced thinking on the importance of work experiences over formal programs and other classroom approaches in facilitating leader development. Conger and Benjamin 1999 examines best practices from high-profile organizations that are used to develop leadership talent at all levels. Taking a more holistic perspective, Vicere and Fulmer 1998 addresses the issue of strategic leadership development that links leader development practices with organizational strategy in enhancing learning and development in organizations. Hill 2003 uses a qualitative interview methodology with first-time managers to explore the core leadership challenges that are faced in becoming a leader. Espousing the belief that leaders are mainly made through experience and practice and not born to lead, Avolio 2005 advances the topic of authentic leadership development in practical and accessible language. Yost and Plunkett 2009 offers practical advice and research-based tools designed to enhance leader development that occurs in the context of ongoing work. Adopting a more scholarly tone, Day, et al. 2009 theorizes on leader development processes, integrating across various literatures in proposing that more-observable forms of development (leadership skills and competencies) are supported by deeper and less observable forces of identity and self-regulation that are embedded in ongoing adult development. The third edition of an influential handbook of leadership development (Van Velsor, et al. 2010) summarizes the core learnings and practices of researchers and trainers at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). A more recent practice-based offering on how organizations can best use on-the-job experiences to enhance leader development is McCauley, et al. 2014. The book consists mainly of very brief applied cases illustrating various contextually based approaches to the development of leaders and more-effective leadership.

  • Avolio, Bruce J. Leadership Development in Balance: Made/Born. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2005.

    This book promotes an understanding of what the author calls authentic leadership development, based on the notion that leaders are primarily made rather than born (i.e., nurture rather than nature). Through understanding and implementing the principles of authentic leadership development, the book also promises the possibility of developing one’s full leadership potential.

  • Conger, Jay A., and Beth Benjamin. Building Leaders: How Successful Companies Develop the Next Generation. Jossey-Bass Business & Management. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

    The authors examine what they consider to be best practices of companies for developing leaders at every organizational level. Presented and reviewed are skill sets that are proposed as “must have” competencies needed to lead effectively. Also identified are organizational values that promote leadership, successful strategic interventions, and detailed reviews of successful leadership development plans.

  • Day, David V., Michelle M. Harrison, and Stanley M. Halpin. An Integrative Approach to Leader Development: Connecting Adult Development, Identity, and Expertise. New York: Psychology Press, 2009.

    In an attempt to advance theory around leadership development, the authors of this book provide an integrative approach based in theory and research from the fields of adult development, identity and identification, and expert performance. There are thirteen general propositions that comprise a minimum of five hypotheses per proposition. As such, an overarching objective is to advance research in addition to theory in the field of leadership development.

  • Hill, Linda A. Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership. 2d ed. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2003.

    This book provides an evidence-based perspective on the leadership challenges new managers face in their first year on the job. The sample is relatively small (N=19), but the qualitative data are fairly rich and reinforce the notion that so-called people challenges are at the heart of learning to manage and become a leader.

  • McCall, Morgan W., Michael M. Lombardo, and Ann M. Morrison. The Lessons of Experience: How Successful Executives Develop on the Job. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1988.

    This is a classic in the field of leadership development in promoting the perspective that it is experience, and especially challenging experience, that is the most potent force for developing as a leader.

  • McCauley, Cynthia D., D. Scott DeRue, Paul R. Yost, and Sylvester Taylor, eds. Experience-Driven Leader Development: Models, Tools, Best Practices, and Advice for On-the-Job Development. San Francisco: Wiley, 2014.

    Taking mainly a best-practice perspective, the authors of the various chapters demonstrate how organizations can use on-the-job experiences to enhance the development of their leaders as well as bring about more-effective leadership. The book comprises over eighty minicases, each no more than a few pages long, that concisely summarize the most-important tools, techniques, processes, and other practical resources to enhance leader development.

  • Van Velsor, Ellen, Cynthia D. McCauley, and Marian N. Ruderman, eds. The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development. 3d ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.

    Now in its third edition, the handbook is an important resource summarizing key perspectives of researchers and practitioners from the CCL. It is perhaps best considered as a translational resource that helps the reader understand some of the core thinking and practices from CCL and how they can be used to enhance development of leaders and leadership.

  • Vicere, Albert A., and Robert M. Fulmer. Leadership by Design. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1998.

    The notion of strategic leadership development is advanced in this book as a way to enhance overall organizational effectiveness. It argues that the most-effective leadership development programs are linked with organizational strategy that focus on enhancing learning across all levels of an organization. The focus of the book sets it apart from most others in the field in that it examines organizational structures and processes that enhance learning and development, rather than taking an individual-based perspective.

  • Yost, Paul R., and Mary Mannion Plunkett. Real Time Leadership Development. Talent Management Essentials. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

    As part of the publisher’s Talent Management Essentials series, this book offers guidance and tools based on research as well as practice to leverage experience-based development. The focus is on development in the ongoing context of work rather than through programs or classroom experiences. The approach and presentation are accessible and designed mainly for the practicing manager.

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