Leader Development vs Leadership Development

Jun 28 2024 | Einblicke
Two colleagues sat outside on chairs talking about leadership development.

While they are often used interchangeably, leader development and leadership development are actually two distinct practices for enhancing leadership; both of which serve their own purpose, and both of which can be beneficial for your organisations.

Identifying leader development and leadership development

Though both solutions work at bettering the concept of leadership, they do so differently. Leader development focuses on the individual leader and their personal growth, personal skills and personal development, all with the aim of making them the most effective leaders. This might include improving their emotional intelligence, their decision-making or their communication skills. On the other hand, leadership development looks at a far more holistic view of leadership within your organisation, developing the overall capacity of your collective leadership. This can include team building, or the development of a shared goal, value or vision within your leadership team. While they might overlap, each has its own definition.

Let’s take a deeper look at the differences and similarities of each approach to understand which might be most beneficial for your company.

Key differences between leader development & leadership development

Personal vs collective focus

While leadership development looks at organisational leadership as a whole, leader development focuses on the individual leaders’ growth and development within a leadership role.

Skill vs shared vision

Leader development is heavily invested in the development of individual skills, like communication, self-awareness and more, while leadership development is more devoted to developing a shared vision within a team of leaders to collectively impact leadership within your organisation.

Level of impact

This collective impact on a whole group of organisational leadership is another difference versus leader development, which aims to directly impact an individual within their role.


Within leader development, success looks like individual growth and development to boost personal success within a specific role, while leadership development is measured more by improvements within the overall leadership culture, and how collaboration can boost organisational success.

Similarities between the two approaches

They might be clearly defined now, but there are still similarities that can be highlighted.

Enhance leadership

Though they do so in different veins, both leader and leadership development have a goal to enhance leadership in some way.

Lead to organisational success

Both developing individual leaders and developing leadership collectively within a business can have serious organisational impacts. Improving how effective individual leaders are can help to improve employee motivation, performance, and satisfaction, all impacting success – and that’s just the beginning. Improving how effective leadership as a whole can lead to better culture, more efficient decision-making and organisational growth, to name just a few.

A constant improvement

Neither individual nor collective leadership development is going to happen overnight. Both approaches require time and dedication.

Both approaches are beneficial, and both work well when implemented hand-in-hand. This is because to better develop a collective group of leaders, it’s also key to improve the individuals that make up this collective for the very best results. Equally, each has their own distinct benefits too.

Benefits of leader development

Personalised growth

Specific areas of need for individual leaders can be targeted to get them performing to the best of their ability. This personalized focus also helps with retention, showing employees within leadership roles that they are valued, and their personal growth and development is a focus.

Improved self-awareness

By helping leaders personally, they can understand themselves, their strengths and their weaknesses better, encouraging self-improvement.

Increased confidence

Working closely with a leader to develop their weaknesses, identify their strengths, and overall work in improving their leadership skills can equate to higher confidence and therefore improved individual performance and success. This can then have a carry-over effect for the business. This confidence can also be transferable to employees who look up to leaders, both through built trust and through inspiration to work harder themselves.


Like with any skill development, the skills leaders develop within a program of leader development can then be transferable to other areas of their career or personal life.

Benefits of leadership development

Organisational transformation

While leader development can have a carry-over effect on the transformation of the business through personal performances, leadership development is solely focused on this, looking to develop a culture where the organisation can thrive through collaborative leadership and a shared goal.

Promotes collaboration and teamwork

With the focus on collective leadership, leadership development can help to capture and cultivate better collaboration between the leadership teams, helping them work together towards a shared vision for the company.

Holistic approach

Leadership development takes a more holistic approach to a problem, looking at the big picture to get to an end goal.


Leadership development can be scaled to other areas, teams and groups of an organisation based on its success, arguably making it a more impactful approach.

So, when might you want to use one approach over the other?

You might look to implementing a leader development program for individuals when you are looking to develop targeted and specific skills within a particular team, or perhaps in a time of change and transformation where strong leaders need to be developed to navigate those times. You might also use this approach for future leaders, to develop specific skills to enable them to move into senior positions.

A leadership development approach might be implemented if the organisation is looking to change and develop its culture within leadership, or when trying to get teams and areas of the business to work together to collectively achieve business goals and objectives.

Either way, both approaches can be incredibly successful and effective, and when used in tandem often even more so.

Find out more about coaching your leaders and leadership with EZRA.

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