The importance of leadership as a conceptual and practical topic and has long been debated, and for the most part, well understood (Campbell, 2003). As early as 400 B.C. Xenophon first defined leadership and its impact on organizations while Bennis stated that the most important and underlying issue today is lack of leadership (Nanus, 1992, p. xiv). Today leaders in a variety of organizations must understand the role and importance of effective leadership, leadership development and succession planning in achieving organizational success. Unfortunately, leadership and leadership development do not confine themselves to a single "check list", comprehensive model, or flow chart. Kolenda (2001) noted, leadership does not fit neatly into a single experience, theory, or historical study, but is the cumulative effect of many factors. The education and development of a leader requires a broader perspective that emphasizes leadership as both a process (science) and an art to be developed. Numerous studies have demonstrated that leaders, and more specifically, the characteristics, styles and traits they exhibit, impact organizational performance and success. Therefore how one defines effective leadership and how one develops as a leader is of significance. This manuscript examines the major theories and assumptions about effective leadership, how leaders are developed and why leaders must focus on identifying and developing the core of effective leadership as a foundational tenet in robust developmental and succession planning efforts. Leveraging emerging data, it seeks to establish a connection between leadership development, effective succession planning and core leadership characteristics. By comparing and contrasting existing research and data elements, case studies and survey research, the researcher intends to synthesize the data, models and research from theorist and practitioners into an operating model that blends and connects the key elements of development, succession planning and leadership characteristics. Using a mixed research approach the researcher found evidence that there is a common framework for defining effective leadership and implementing robust succession planning strategies. Further, it provides an analysis of the key competencies and characteristics of successful change leaders and compares and contrasts leadership theories, practices and styles.
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