Developing Others

People-Development Leadership

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership


Back in 2000, John Maxwell authored a book entitled Developing the Leader Within You. In that book, he posited that there are five levels of leadership. He named those levels Position, Permission, Production, People Development, and Pinnacle. In this post, I discuss the fourth of the five and we will explore the last level in our final post of the series next week.

People Development

The move from “Production” to “People Development” is another significant one for the long-term performance of a leader and his company.

Developing Others

People-development means that the company is not only achieving results in the present but has a system in place in which future leaders are being developed. The leader has achieved a level of respect and loyalty from employees that causes them to act in accordance with direction because of complete faith in the leader’s ethics, vision, and purpose.


In his excellent book, Drive, Daniel Pink establishes that companies need to provide three things for knowledge workers to be fully engaged: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. The advanced leader knows that in order to scale his organization, people need to be developed in a way that allows them to make appropriate decisions on their own. To achieve this autonomy, people-development includes establishing the core values of the organization and making sure they are enforced. Decisions are based on values. Therefore, it is imperative that values be established and understood by all. Allowing others to make decisions grooms them for larger leadership roles.


The development of people also requires that people believe they are continuously improving in their technical skills. Pink calls this “mastery” and found that knowledge workers appreciated technical growth above financial rewards. It is important to remember that becoming a leader also requires the development of leadership skills. This is especially true of people who are promoted from highly technical functions (engineering, accounting, software development, etc.) to a leadership role. We frequently find that when we promote an excellent engineer, for example, we lose a good engineer and gain a poor manager. It is good to keep in mind that management and leadership is a learned skill for which we can provide training.


The organizational purpose is a guardrail for deciding not only which projects to take on, but more importantly, which projects to decline to take on. The purpose or vision for the organization also provides a sense of working toward something larger than self for employees. The Millennial generation especially values a sense of purpose; a larger vision. Making the numbers is not inspiring, especially if leaders fail to establish why the numbers are critical to achieving the vision. People do want to believe that they are somehow contributing to making the community a better place through the work that they do.


It is very difficult to focus on values, vision, mission, and goals if I’m constantly worried that I or my project will be eliminated in the name of profitability. It is next to impossible for me to be willing to make decisions if an honest mistake will be punished. People development requires that we establish a safe environment for people. That doesn’t imply people will not be held accountable. A safe environment doesn’t mean that non-performers won’t be let go. It does mean that everyone will be treated with respect and dignity even if hard decisions have to be made.

The higher up in the organization a leader climbs, the more they will become focused on managing the culture of the group and organization. There are many who claim that the single most important job that a CEO has is to actively manage the corporate culture. And that certainly includes people-development.