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Developmental networks at work: holding environments for leader development

Rajashi Ghosh (Human Resource Development, School of Education, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Ray K. Haynes (Department of Instructional Systems Technology, School of Education, Indiana University, Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Kathy E. Kram (School of Management, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 14 June 2013




The purpose of this paper is to elaborate how an adult development perspective can further the understanding of developmental networks as holding environments for developing leaders confronted with challenging experiences.


The article utilizes constructive developmental theory (C‐D theory) to explore and address the implications of an adult development lens for leader development, especially as they confront complex leadership challenges that trigger anxiety.


Theoretical propositions suggest different kinds of holding behaviors (e.g. confirmation, contradiction, and continuity) necessary for enabling growth and effectiveness for leaders located in different developmental orders.

Research limitations/implications

Propositions offered can guide future researchers to explore how leaders confronted with different kinds of leadership challenges sustain responsive developmental networks over time and how the developers in the leader's network coordinate to provide confirmation, contradiction, and continuity needed for leader development.

Practical implications

Leaders and their developers should reflect on how developmental orders may determine which types of holding behaviors are necessary for producing leader effectiveness amidst challenging leadership experiences. Organizations should provide assessment centers and appropriate training and development interventions to facilitate this reflection.

Social implications

This paper demonstrates the important role that developmental relationships play in leadership effectiveness and growth over time. Individuals and organizations are urged to attend to the quality and availability of high quality developmental relationships for purposes of continuous learning and development.


This article re‐conceptualizes developmental networks as holding environments that can enable leader's growth as an adult and, hence, increase their effectiveness as leaders amidst complex leadership challenges.



Ghosh, R., Haynes, R.K. and Kram, K.E. (2013), "Developmental networks at work: holding environments for leader development", Career Development International, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 232-256.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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