DIY Leadership Development: Easy Leadership Programs You Can Run Yourself

by  Karin Hurt  |  Leadership Development

leadership developmentFormal leadership development programs are invaluable when developing leadership talent.  Getting outside perspective is vital, and external facilitation can make all the difference.  It’s also possible to supplement these programs with workshops leaders run themselves.  Such programs provide leaders an opportunity to share mindset, enhance transparency, and review lessons learned.

I spent the first decade of my career in leadership development, organizational development and HR roles.  I then went out to the “field” in customer service and sales leadership positions leading larger teams.  As my role in organizations has grown, I have been implementing some of the leadership development programs I once facilitated for others with my own team.   The new spin… leader turned facilitator… brings out an exciting dynamic.

I share some of the techniques that have worked best in the summaries and links below.  If you are a leader, I would love to hear about DIY leadership you are doing with your own team.  If you are a coach or other support function, it would be great to hear how you have supported such programs with your clients.

Basic Conditions

For this to work, leaders must…

    • have a strong intention for development, not judgement
    • be comfortable with transparency
    • be vulnerable
    • have time to follow-through on scheduled meetings and commitments
    • engage completely without distractions

Techniques and Applications

 Storytelling (Strategic Storytelling Workshop )

What it Is: 

An experiential workshop focused on strategic use of storytelling as a communication technique.

Each leader reflects on his or her own values, priorities, and history and identifies a personal story that reflects his or her approach to leadership.  The stories are then shared with the team, and each leader receives  feedback on their story and delivery.  The themes from each story are discussed and leveraged to create norms for the team (or organization).  The participants work to identify opportunities to incorporate strategic storytelling into their communication plans.

The Benefits

  • learning more about one another
  • Increased trust and transparency
  • Skill-building, communication and public speaking
  • Opportunity for the leader to role-model risk-taking and humility (I find the stories that work best are the ones where I did something stupid,but survived)

Group Mentoring (Mentoring Circles)

What it Is 

I do this as a skip level experience, giving me an opportunity to get to know 8-10 high potential managers by working together.  I always start with teaching them about “elevator speeches”, and having them create one.  Glass Elevators: Why Elevator Speeches Matter.

We talk about the business…and we all share the challenges we are having and share best practices.  The fun begins when we take field trips to struggling areas of the business and offer support.  We also do a project together to give back to the business.  I have found that these circles (called various names, usually “academies” or “leagues”), are a great way for me and my team to share our vision, work on work, and really get to know the managers in a deeper way.  An added win is having a direct report involved with this as part of their leadership experience.   I have seen a good track record of successful promotions coming out of these scenes.

Of course, some would argue it’s not “mentoring” if it is your own chain of command.  Perhaps.

The Benefits

  • Getting to know frontline leaders at a deeper level
  • Leadership skill building
  • Working on real work together (I always learn something new)

Virtual Book Groups (Book Groups and Exercises)

What it is

My team is spread out around the country, so we do this virtually.  It would work even better face to face.  I just tell my larger team what leadership book I am reading and offer for them to join me.  We then pick specific leadership behaviors we will work on and begin to “experiment.”   We don’t just discuss, we do… and then discuss.  You can read about one such adventure in the above link.  Next we are reading Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman, and working on our “multiplying behaviors.”  Participation in these groups has grown exponentially.

The Benefits

  • Common language
  • New ideas
  • Encourages risk taking and trying new behaviors

The time I spend on these programs is an investment that develops the talent, and goes a long way in building trust and transparency in the organization.  Plus, it is fantastic fun.

Are you a leader who has facilitated your own leadership gig?  Please share…

Or are you a coach, supporting such endeavors?  I would love to hear your stories…

About The Author

Articles By karin-hurt
Karin Hurt is a leadership speaker, consultant and MBA professor. She’s a former Verizon Wireless executive with 2 decades of diverse cross-functional experience in sales, customer service and HR. She was recently recognized on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Speakers for your next conference, AMA’s 50 Leaders to Watch in 2015, and Trust Across America’s 100 Thought Leaders in Trusted Business Behavior.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Alan Derek Utley  |  19 Sep 2012  |  Reply

Hi Karin, I love what you’ve outlined here. I also love that you refer to what we do as “gigs” because I do that too. Why should the rockstars and stand-up comedians be the only ones with gigs, right? I’m a leader who tries to facilitate his own leadership gigs, and in my organization it is also my job to bring leaders together to share and learn from each other. A couple of years ago we developed a leadership faculty, which is a handful of leaders who we qualified to teach our flagship leadership development course. Many of our faculty are senior and executive-level leaders, who have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. And they are truly passionate about it. I enjoy sitting back and watching them teach because they relate so well with the other leaders. In this course we also do something simple, but impactful, which really opens the dialogue and puts all the leaders on a path of learning from and teaching each other. We ask the leaders to share with a partner or in small group a piece of leadership advice that impacted them. Then we sit back and watch.

Karin Hurt  |  19 Sep 2012  |  Reply

Thanks so much. I love the idea of leveraging leaders as faculty. Fantastic.

Glen Gaugh  |  19 Sep 2012  |  Reply

Your post is as practical as it is profound- Thanks for the tips and material for facilitating growth in-house!


Karin Hurt  |  19 Sep 2012  |  Reply

Thank you so much, Glen! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

Deborah L. Parker  |  19 Sep 2012  |  Reply

Good list. So often when budgets are tight, leaders overlook the obvious ways to still hone their skills. Thanks!

letsgrowleaders  |  20 Sep 2012  |  Reply

Deborah, Thanks for joining in the conversation. Yes, I believe there is so much that can be done organically when budgets are tight.

David Marquet  |  27 Sep 2012  |  Reply

The right way to leadership development is not so much have a separate program as embed the development of leaders within the organization. This article ( talks about an organization doing that and looks pretty interesting. Complementary to the process described here.

Karin Hurt  |  27 Sep 2012  |  Reply

Great article! thanks for sharing. Love that approach.

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