Leadership development what makes it different 2 12
Leadership Development: What makes it Different?
Executive leadership development shares similarities with other learning programs. For
example, it must direct itself to the specific needs of its audience, and learner reflection is
important to increase retention for on-the-job application. For the senior learner, application of
knowledge and skills is tantamount to success of their company. A support structure should be
in place with regular reminders to help the senior leader apply new knowledge and behaviors in
how they lead to affect change.
To identify a context of current offerings in leadership development, a Google search of "senior
leader development in executive strategy and management" was completed. The following
programs came up:
* Kellogg Northwestern
* MIT Sloan
* University of Chicago
* Harvard Exec Education
Further review of recent research studies on leadership development at the executive level
identified content areas where leaders may have skill and knowledge gaps that could negatively
impact organizational change, growth and success.
From this limited high-level examination several key areas were identified:
1. Any leadership offering must differentiate itself in content and delivery mode from
other learning programs geared to a less experienced group of learners.
2. Advanced leadership learning must be presented within the context of organizational
3. Leadership development must include a strong application component.
4. Leadership doesn't work alone and there needs to be recognition of the need for
interpersonal and communication skills development.
A high-level review of effective leadership development suggests knowledge gain is only one
piece of the puzzle. More importantly, is a process orientation of how to apply new skills to
organizational implementation needs.
Evidence from various research studies of senior leaders and their bosses, indicate that leaders
may have skill set gaps that don't allow them to successfully lead their organization's strategic
direction or meet defined goals.
If leaders are to manage and execute strategies, it is important to recognize a leader's role
within the organization, which includes an approach that works across, and up and down in the
organization. Leaders don't work in a vacuum.
The DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2011 includes 2,600 organizations, 1,897 HR professionals,
and 12,423 leaders from 74 countries. The report found that 55% of organizations surveyed will
be increasing budget for leadership development in 2012, while 7% reported a decrease in
leadership development spend. The remaining organizations reported no change to their
leadership development budgets.
DDI also asked organizations to identify the most important leadership skills during the last 3
years. It identified the 3 top critical skills for leaders in the last 3 years as:
Driving and managing change,
Executing organizational strategy, and
Coaching and developing others.
Additionally, respondents identified those skills that will be required for success in the coming
3 years, with the first two not changing. The new skills include:
Identifying and developing future talent, and
The report outlines the importance of these new skills.
The leaders of tomorrow will need to be talent scouts, always on the lookout for the best
internal and external talent. And once they find them, they will need to accelerate their
Fostering creativity and innovation is another new priority.....The number of leaders citing
innovation as a critical skill increased more than for any other skill. According to The Boston
Consulting Group (2010), 72 percent of executives list innovation as a top priority, the
highest percentage since it began conducting the annual research. The same study shows
that those who focus on innovation enjoy up to a six-fold advantage on total shareholder
return versus their industry peers. IBM's Capitalizing on Complexity (2010) study also reports
that CEOs place a premium on leaders who can drive innovation, rating it as the most
important leadership quality.
Design Recommendations for Leadership Development
Since CEOs identify creativity as the most important skill for leading their organizations, a
leadership program must be creative, and innovative in its approach --creating a program in the
manner that organizations must lead.
Jared L. Bleak and Robert M. Fulmer discuss how to Strategically Develop Strategic Leaders in
the 2009 Best Practices in Leadership Development Handbook and state the following:
Research has shown that when leadership development is seen as a strategic objective, in
and of itself, and when this development is tied closely to the strategy and needs of the
business, excellent organizational results follow.
Their premise, based on research of the of five best practice leadership development
companies - Caterpillar, Cisco Systems, PepsiCo, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Washington
Group International- indicates that leadership development is most successful when doing the
tying leadership culture, values, practices, and development to business strategy,
creating strategically relevant collective learning opportunities,
integrating a leadership development architecture with various development initiatives
for maximum impact, and
using leadership development to support the execution of business strategy and long-
term needs to develop individual competencies while also building immediately needed
organizational capability to address business challenges.
Understanding the needs and challenges of senior leaders can help determine how to build a
program directed to this target group. Listed below are high-level parameters of how a program
for senior leaders might take shape.
1. Leadership development at the most senior level requires programming at an
advanced level so that it's perceived as "differentiated" from learning opportunities
directed to a less experienced learner.
2. Senior leaders need training in content areas not usually required of others, including
such topics as: business acumen, strategic planning and implementation, and business
3. For senior leaders, it is important to share challenges and stories with
peers. A community of practice can include a cross organizational and cross industry
collaborative working environment that offers feedback, support, and input and advice
to members based on personal experiences and new learning outcomes.
4. In defining leadership development, there needs to be a clear value proposition for the
organization, and definable, measurable individual goals that tie to organizational needs
5. An identified risk factor for organizations offering leadership development to emerging
or current leaders is retention. Ensuring there is a process in place for managing
development while also managing career paths and advancement, is an important
component of a leadership program. (Advising companies on career and growth
planning to ensure leaders' retention is a secondary requirement of leadership
6. A leadership program must include prerequisite self-directed learning, assessments and