Developing Leaders and Organizations for Breakthrough Results
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"Setting himself apart from so many in his field, Doug is skilled at moving senior leaders to action with a sense of urgency and clarity. He is able to understand and shift business and cultural dynamics with the immediacy of delivering results 'now'. He guided a collection of disparate yet talented senior executives to a breakthrough in embracing our responsibilities to leverage our talents as a team... "

Eileen Sweeney
HR VP Global Operations

The Critical Imperative of Leadership Development and How Best Practice Companies Are Meeting the Challenge

Companies worldwide are realizing that the key to 21st century success is leadership. Leaders from organizations across industry sectors are searching for the next generation of leaders to help take them effectively into the future. The relentless pace of change, increased levels of uncertainty, challenging economic conditions, constant adaptation to new technology and what McKinsey & Co. refer to as hyper competition, have created an organizational context in which the need for more effective leadership seems almost impossible to satisfy. To address this, leaders have more pressure to develop those around them. They are expected to develop their staff to improve performance, ensure alignment of goals and culture, and to create a flexible and innovative work environment. The key is to create a leadership structure and process – a leadership culture -- that enables continuous growth and change. Such a system relies heavily on coaching, 360 degree feedback, exposure to senior leaders, development planning and performance management processes, and many other tactics and practices required to develop new leaders and enhance the capability of existing leaders.

An organization's most critical resource for initiating and leading change is leadership. Developing the right systems, processes, and programs for an organization is a critical capability that not only helps ensure that there is a qualified pool of talent, but also positively impacts the outcome of major change initiatives which has become one of the critical roles of a leader.

High-impact leadership development enables an organization to use its own, internal resources to nurture its next generation of leaders. Growing leaders from within is both time and cost-effective and, clearly has a positive impact on the engagement, commitment and retention of the key leaders.

As we work with companies around the world on leadership development initiatives, it is clear that the business case for leadership development is remarkably similar. What is clear is that leadership development has become a key vehicle for driving organizational transformation. In every case we've been a part of, leadership programs are targeted at the individual level in order to create an aggregate of needed behaviors, skills, and attitudes. This clearly increases the importance of linking leadership development with the vision, values and strategies of the business.

Given this background and the increasingly critical role that leadership development plays in organizational success, let's look at what we see as the common approaches leading companies are using for designing and implementing effective leadership development programs.

  • Companies are defining the outcome of leadership effectiveness through the use of clear leadership standards and competencies and an explicit leadership model.
  • Values are an important aspect of leadership development and are embedded in programs. "Who you are" is as increasingly important as "what you do." The book, Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman is a great source for this work. Some best practice companies even begin with values as the basis of leadership development.
  • Assessment by others in the form of 360 surveys and self-assessments such as Myers-Briggs, DISC and others are used to provide a language for understanding preferences and styles.
  • Net-based learning is increasingly used by providing portals for leaders to use on-line resources. Cisco, IBM, Dell and many others use on-line assessments, on-line pre-work and surveys and even some of the content is being provided in on-line platforms. While there will always be a need for dialogue, interaction, learning teams and coaching in programs, the internet offers tremendous possibilities going forward.
  • Executive coaching has become almost standard in programs over the past several years. A coach can challenge, confront, guide and link insight to needed organizational outcomes.
  • Customization of learning, particularly at the senior level, is becoming common. The "just-in-time" learning is delivered through a number of vehicles including mentoring programs, coaching, relationships with other key leaders, and action learning.
  • Action learning is rapidly becoming standard in the most effective programs. This combines "learning with doing" and is a method used to create experiences in which learning occurs on several levels at once including individual, team and organization.
  • Some of the best programs have a mission statement around which the system and programs are built and is aligned with corporate strategy.
  • All successful programs not only have the commitment of top management, but involve them as participants, faculty, and guest speakers and have them play active roles in the action learning activities and other phases of the program.
  • The involvement of customers, board members, analysts and other stakeholders as faculty and speakers is rather new, but an increasingly used vehicle to bring business realities and important and pressing business challenges into the learning experience.