A Recipe For Leadership Development

Developing leaders is a challenge that all organizations face.  Most leadership development is done informally through stretch assignments and on the job training.  Forward thinking companies create leadership development curriculum or leverage outside programs to compliment on the job training.  Having developed and delivered several of these programs, I am quite familiar with the inherent flaws.  

LeaderSurf was developed to address the flaws with traditional classroom based leadership development programs.  The top three flaws with classroom learning are:

  1. The learning modules fail to create sustainable behavior change
  2. The programs tend to be theoretical in nature and instructor focused rather than participant centered
  3. The dull learning environment does not fully engage the participants in a meaningful way

The LeaderSurf Recipe:

We have a unique recipe for leadership development which is outlined below.  It includes:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Servant Leadership
  • Business Challanges
  • Mindfulness
  • Physical Activity
  • The Right Climate for Learning

Self Awareness

Self-Awareness is a leadership differentiator.  The best leaders are self aware.  We leverage two psychometric instruments to build self awareness.

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The Leading Dimensions Profile (LDP) is a psychometric assessment that helps individuals to better understand their personality and style as it relates to two key dimensions:  Achievement drive and Relationship drive.  As an individual grows in his or her career, they must rely more heavily on relationships for success. Work gets done through others and through influence.  The LDP helps individuals to better understand how they balance achievements with relationships.


The Resilience Factor Inventory (RFI) is a psychometric instrument from Korn Ferry that helps individuals to understand personal resilience.  Resilience is the ability to cope with and bounce back from hardship. It is a leadership skills that needs attention to be effectively developed.  The RFI measures personal resilience across seven factors and provides input as to areas for development as well as areas of strength.  We leverage the RFI at LeaderSurf to help participants understand how they deal with adversity.

At LeaderSurf we take a very different approach.  Our program is an immersive week-long experience that engages the whole person.  We build our program around the specific development needs of each participant.  This is accomplished through the pre-work intake sessions, the business challenge planning, one on one coaching and the post program follow up work.


Servant Leadership and Philanthropy


We believe that leadership should be viewed as a selfless act.  It is about helping others to achieve their potential.  The best way to bring this to life is to engage participants in activities where they are helping others.  The community project day, LeaderServe is a critical component of the LeaderSurf program.  Participants spend a day in a local Nicaraguan village installing clean water filter systems.  This hands on approach to helping others is a humbling experience and shows participants first hand the power of servant leadership.

The community project is an impactful and essential component of the LeaderSurf program.  It exposes our participants to the poverty that impacts the people of Nicaragua.  This helps the participants place their work and life challenges into perspective.

Business Challenges


We all have our challenges at work, but do we ever get the opportunity to share those challenges with an engaged group of experts from outside our organizations?  Probably not.  At LeaderSurf each participant comes prepared with a business challenge.  During the course of the program, they share that challenge with the other participants and seek input and feedback.  Each participants gets the opportunity to weigh in on the challenges of their peers and to get feedback on their own challenge.  This peer mentoring approach builds business acumen, helps participants learn how to coach and provide feedback, and teaches leaders that it is ok to ask for help. 


It is so easy to get caught up in the situation at hand.  At LeaderSurf we challenge participants to take a timeout from the day to day and to be more aware of their surroundings.  Breakfast each morning includes a mindfulness exercise to help participants to heighten their awareness of the surroundings, their bodies and their mindsets for the day.


We end each day with an activity called Sunset Reflections.  This mindfulness activity is done on the beach at sunset each day.  Participants are asked to share one thing they have learned over the course of the day that they did no know when the awoke that morning.  The learning can either be about themselves or about the world around them.  By articulating learnings every day the learnings are more likely to stick.  This is an important component of the programs goal of heightened learning retention.  There is a power in doing this as the sun is setting and natures clock is ending the day.

Physical Activity- Surfing Lessons


Learning a new physical skills build leadership capability. Leadership is a skills that requires practice.  By teaching business professionals a new physical skill, we use the metaphor to build leadership skills.  Learning to surf requires a willingness to be comfortable being uncomfortable.  Surfing serves as a great metaphor for leadership and participants make the connection quickly. Doing something physical as part of a leadership development program heightens ones awareness and unlocks receptors in the brain. Merging the physical skills with mental learning creates a strong body/mind linkeage that results in a more powerful overall learning experience.


The Right Climate for Learning


Nicaragua is the right climate for learning.  It is an amazing country with natural beauty and kind people, yet there is dysfunction and poverty.  This is the perfect setting for a leadership development program.  The juxtaposition of natural beauty and poverty challenges participants to think more clearly about the world in which we live.  The setting creates an appreciation of our more developed world, but also a yearning for simpler times.  Spending a week in this tropical paradise changes people and they return home with a very different perspective on the world.  We believe the location for our program is a key ingredient in our leadership development recipe.


LeaderSurf really is leadership development done differently.  We strongly believe that our unique approach yields powerful results and that can be seen through the testimonials of our past participants.  We encourage organizations considering our approach to read through the testimonials on our ROI page.