Developing leadership capacity in others

by Kristin Huggins et al

Investigates the personal capacities of six experienced high school principals in the US who are well known for developing formal and informal leaders in their schools.

Read online – International Journal of European Policy and Leadership

From a review of research and interviews with six principals, the authors of this study suggest three key capacities for developing leadership in others.

  1. A strong commitment to developing leadership capacity
  2. Understanding of leadership development as a process
  3. An ability to tolerate risk.

While none of these three capabilities is unexpected, they are a useful way to reflect on what developing others as leaders involves for a principal. The real-life examples in the study may stimulate some questions to ask yourself.  

The tolerance of risk is potentially the most complex of the three capacities for a leader. For example, as well as being ultimately responsible for anything that goes wrong, there is also the need to be able to put your own doubts or beliefs aside at times and trust divergent views.  

Reflective questions

  • Is it enough to rely on your own leadership experiences to develop the leadership capacities of others, do you think? How could you add to your capacities to develop others?
  • How does your board view the development of leadership in others? As part of your role? How can they support you with the risks and the "fine-line of letting go"?


Huggins, K.S., Klar, H.W., Hammonds, H.L., Buskey, F.C., Developing Leadership Capacity in Others: An Examination of High School Principals’ Personal Capacities for Fostering Leadership. International Journal of European Policy and Leadership, vol 12, no 1 (2017)

A principal's story

For Eric Shaw developing leadership is one of the most important and enjoyable roles of a principal. He describes the development process he uses with team leaders and senior leaders at the school.

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