Message from the Director | LSU School of Leadership & Human Resource Development

Message from the Director

Hello, and thank you for your interest in LDI!

The Leadership Development Institute at LSU is a Board of Regents approved institute whose mission is to offer “cutting-edge, customized, evidence-based leadership development preparation, interventions, and coaching tailored to individuals, boards, communities, and organizations in the education, youth advancement, government, non-profit and human services sector”. That’s quite a mouthful, I know. What it basically means is that we are taking the proven strategies that business, industry, and for-profit institutions have always implemented to make themselves and their workforce more effective, and we are delivering them to the population that needs them the most: the people that develop people. I accepted the position as Executive Director in August 2018, and immediately pointed my high beams at developing leaders for social impact: K-12 education, social work, corrections, etc.

Like any good lesson, a good place to start is to clarify our vocabulary.

Leadership- the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle toward shared aspirations (Kouzes & Posner).

In human sciences, we often use the term “leadership” to mean “administration” or “bosses.” At the LDI, we are NOT trying to create administrators or bosses (although that may be a welcomed unintended consequence of our work). We are instead trying to develop the behaviors, the skills, and the competencies that are necessary for each individual to move his or her own needle of leadership effectiveness. Based on that definition, every teacher that ever stands in front of a classroom and is charged with motivating students to achieve is a leader. Every social worker is a leader. Every public servant is a leader. We can work with any level from entry and onboarding to executive, and any size audience from individuals to large groups.

Development- growth, advancement, and refinement

Much like leadership, the term “professional development” stimulates a certain idea in the social sector. When we talk of “professional development”, we envision workshops. There’s usually a valuable central idea, strategy, or resource that is presented, and everybody generally gets the same information. This is good stuff! But at the LDI, we actually mean the growth, advancement, and refinement of EACH individual as a professional. We will begin with an assessment of each individual, followed by an identification of areas where growth is needed, and we will customize an action plan for each professional to work on their development. Then we’ll coach them through it.

Research in workplace development and organizational effectiveness is overwhelmingly clear: leadership matters! I can spew all kinds of statistics about this, but the bottom line of all of the studies is that when organizations tackle leadership development as a priority, they outperform their peers. Job satisfaction, self-efficacy, retention, and achievement INCREASE. Absenteeism, turnover, burnout, and workplace conflicts DECREASE. Organizations that are deliberate can create cultures of learning and productivity and eliminate toxicity in their buildings.

There are a few ideas that are fundamental to the initiative:

  • Each individual must be accountable for his or her own behavior and development. We can’t change the way other people behave.
  • Self-awareness is critical. To make any situation better, we must look into a mirror instead of through a window.
  • Personal and interpersonal relationships are the most critical variable in any workplace.
  • Following up with a coach ensures accountability and effective development is achieved. Flash-in-the-pan initiatives seldom work long term.
  • Leadership development is an ongoing process; you never “arrive.”

Business and industry have the advantage because they have the deep pockets to hire consultants and firms to do this stuff for them. We knew when we decided to plant our flag in human sciences and education that we were entering unchartered territory. We love that! Because we understand the financial structure of this world, we also understand budgetary constraints and the limited amount of funding that is available. I promise to work with you to provide the lowest cost solution possible.

That’s my pitch in a nutshell. I’m no salesperson, but after spending more than the last two decades devoting my professional life to improving workforce quality for social impact, I firmly believe that we are on to something here. Join me! Let’s make history!

Please feel free to call or email me with any questions or for more information.

Take care, and GEAUX LEAD!

Leslie Blanchard, PhD
Executive Director
Leadership Development Institute
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
225-LSU-3806 (O)