As someone who is passionate about leadership development, it is heartening to see articles like the one that ran recently in the Wall Street Journal, indicating, Despite Cutbacks, Firms Invest in Developing Leaders.”

The article highlights the enlightened perspective that some firms and executives have on developing talent during the current tough times.  Despite layoffs and recession-starved budgets, many employers are investing in leadership development programs, hoping not to be caught short when the economy improves.”

Good for these businesses and the leaders.  The notion that it is always time to work on identifying and grooming leaders is healthy.

However, if you happen to work in one of the firms that is not as fortunate or as enlightened as the ones highlighted in the article, don’t despair. 

You don’t have to have a stinking budget to improve your team’s/firm’s leadership development practices.  You do however, have to have your head screwed on straight about this process, and you need to be committed to executing on it as a core, everyday part of your job. 

In my workshop and engagement surveys, the number one reason that leaders don’t do a better job supporting professional development is…, you guessed it, “Time.”  Fantastically and shockingly, people are willing to admit that they just don’t make time for this part of their job. 

All of the training dollars and programs in the world will not make up for the lack of personal commitment about leadership development from you as a leader and from your peers and colleagues. 

Leadership development doesn’t start with training, it doesn’t happen in training and it is not the means to the ends.  It is context, not core.  It offers many potential benefits, including motivation, reinforcement and support for skills development, but only experience gives someone the tools to truly lead.

Regardless of whether you have or don’t have a training budget, do these things and you will increase your batting average for building better leaders.

-Nine Tips for TurboCharging Leadership Development with No Budget:

1. Think about your leadership needs (skills, styles, competencies) in the context of the future, not the present. 

2.  Think hard about the attributes that you are looking for.  Too often, we gravitate towards those that are outgoing and articulate.  There are great leaders hidden behind those that seek the stage.

3.  As a management group, talk a lot about your talent and their needs.  Share insights and feedback on your collective pool of high potentials.

4.  A high-potential one year may not make the cut the next year.  Manage talent like a portfolio.

5.  Share talent across functions to create well-rounded experiences for your high potentials.  Make certain that the sharing involves feedback and performance evaluation from the rotational leaders.

6.  Design opportunities for individuals; don’t just plunk people into problems.  Be deliberate about tailoring opportunity development to the individual.

7.  Coach and provide feedback constantly.  And then double it.

8.  Challenge the people you are developing to do seek out extraordinary ways to strengthen and to gain experience.  I have no qualms encouraging a high potential to seek out other forms of leadership and experience by tapping into community needs.  You can learn a lot about developing lateral influence skills by working in your community at a nonprofit or at your church.

9.  Practice what you preach.  Have you taken charge of your own professional development?  What’s your plan?

Don’t let the lack of a budget keep you from your appointed rounds as a developer of leaders.  And if you are one of those hoping to be developed, don’t “boo hoo” your firm’s lack of commitment.  You are responsible for you own career.  Get on with it.