Leader Development versus Leadership Development

Leader development focuses on intrapersonal development and leadership development focuses on interpersonal development (Day et al., 2004). Leader development is focused on individual-level intrapersonal competencies such as internal motivations, awareness building, and individual knowledge, skills, and abilities (Day, 2001; Hanson, 2013; Iles & Preece, 2006). The primary emphasis of leader development is building “intrapersonal competence needed to form an accurate model of oneself” (Day, 2001, p. 584). Leadership development, on the other hand, has a social, interactive, and networked character (Hanson, 2013; Iles & Preece, 2006) and is defined as “expanding the collective capacity of organizational member to engage effectively in leadership roles and processes” (Day, 2001, p. 582). (Michelle R. Kissinger, 2015).

A different way to distinguish these two types of development is as organizational capital: human capital (leader development) and social capital (leadership development) (Day, 2001). Human capital “emphasizes the development of individual capabilities like self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-motivation.” Social capital, on the other hand, “emphasizes the development of reciprocal obligations and commitments” (Day, 2001, p. 695). The distinctions are worth noting but, from an organizational development practice perspective, the two levels of development are inseparable - increasing organizational leadership capacity is based on the ongoing development of individual leaders (Day, 2001; Day et al., 2004; Iles & Preece, 2006). (Michelle R. Kissinger, 2015).

Day et al. (2009) note that self-awareness is usually associated with theories of identity development and that the leader development literature often describes self-awareness as being “critical for leader development and success” (p. 64). Self-awareness supports leader development by helping people “increase the fit between identity and leader role requirements” and “reflect on individual strengths and areas that need additional development (p. 65). Silvia and Gendolla (2001) explain, “self-focused attention is the fundamental mechanism that allows accurate and detailed information about the self” (p. 242). Viewing identity processes through the lens of symbolic interactionism modifies the understanding of the relationship between self-reflection on self-identity. (Michelle R. Kissinger, 2015).

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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