Training & Development

What Makes A Leader Ready To Lead?

Organizations need leaders to move them in the right direction. Strong leaders can be developed, but how can organizations know when a person is ready for leadership development? Organizations must start by enhancing their capabilities for leadership development by focusing on individual’s “developmental readiness”.

What is developmental readiness?

Developmental readiness (DR) is a person’s ability and motivation to add new knowledge/information into the long-term memory. There are five factors that are generally related to one’s leadership developmental readiness.
  • The nature of one’s goals:
People who are learning goal-oriented see themselves as continuously improving through learning and are more likely to use/solicit feedback for developmental purposes, while those who are performance goal-oriented are more likely to view themselves as having less flexibility for development and avoid challenging opportunities where they may face failure or negative feedback.
  • The level of someone’s confidence in their developmental ability:
How confident a person is in their ability to improve (or develop) a particular skill or ability influences the way information related to development is interpreted and used, which can partly determine how engaged a person will be in leader development.
  • The level of self-awareness a person has:
How clear people’s views of themselves are can affect how well they are able to incorporate developmental experiences and feedback. The greater the clarity a person has, the better the ability to find meaning in developmental opportunities and feedback.
  • The level of self-complexity a person has:
Higher levels of complexity are indicative of greater cognitive and affective associations, and better ability to process and refine developmental information.
  • The possession of second-order thinking:
Having an awareness of personal cognitive strengths and weaknesses allows a leader to reflect on experiences and focus on how they are being interpreted.

How can organizations use DR for development?

Leadership is contextualized, meaning the organization’s environment has an effect on the DR of its individuals. The environment in which DR occurs can aid or retard an individual’s development. Those responsible for developing leaders must be able to adapt their techniques/modes of development to the individual through providing individual consideration.

Kathleen Melcher


This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Avolio, B.J., & Hannah, S.T. (2009). Leader developmental readiness. Industrial Organizational Psychology, 2, 284-287.