Twelve Common Dilemmas of Leadership Development Programs - and what to do about them
Why have many companies that have invested the most
in leadership development
often gained the least?
Robert M. Tomasko
1. Motivation of participants
Make it hard to get in
Application process: students make a case for themselves
Senior leaders hand select participants
Annual competition for limited number of slots
Some potential leader-candidates urged to reapply next year
Make explicit the performance expectations
Allow for self selection
Make successful program completion a prerequisite for advancement
Include in performance reviews:
"What are your top performers doing to raise the level of performance of every other player on their team?"
2. Attendance and commitment
Boss's boss is the teacher
Input to career decisions
Individual and team recognition (public, work group, family and private)
3. Faculty get no respect
Boss's boss is the teacher
Careful choice of permanent and visiting faculty
This is not a program that can be taught by juniors
Participants quickly sense when there is a big gap between:
Leadership as taught in the program, and
Leadership as it it actually practiced in the company
4. Bosses don't know how to teach
Evaluate their abilities at leadership development
Don't allow poor teachers to teach - regardless of their rank in the organization
Give them another role in leadership development (coach, mentor, evaluator)
Study strategy while doing strategy
Develop a strategic plan (budget, etc,) while teaching strategic planning (budgeting, etc.)
Leverage executive teachers' time via technology (video, etc)
Distance learning and distance teaching
Intense/tightly designed group time
Measure direct impact on business
Not student satisfaction
Customer = current leaders concerned about cultivating pool of future leaders
Not the students
Build the program around senior line executive involvement
Phase-in the program
A small number of high impact successes are better than a thick catalog of courses
Prototype and pilot before roll-out
Results make the strongest case for ongoing investment
Start-up with near-term high payback programs
Don't fund through overhead
Create sponsors: sales/production/support
Let sponsors approve and fund budget
Consider tuition and chargebacks
Starting point: create a market for what the leadership program produces
Set a company-wide leadership development mandate
Require each organization unit to set leadership development targets to which they will be held accountable
Allow them choice of internal, external or self-created programs to achieve the targets
Business units "contract" with leadership program for slots and for consulting in how do design own program
Consider designating some future leaders as "corporate property"
Fund their development as a corporate project ("scholarships")
8. Carts before the horse
These should be driven by the program, not be the drivers of it:
9. Elite vs. democratic
Examine the assumptions that underlie the program:
"Everyone has some leadership potential - it is the job of the company to provide ways every individual's potential can be realized."
"A relatively small number of individuals will set the company's future direction and steer it there - it is the job of the company to carefully select these people, then develop and test them."
10. Who gets developed?
Are all those in the designated positions potential leaders?
By assessment of individual performance and potential and nomination
By admission test
Allow anyone to make a case for themselves
11. Should the program create clones or mutants?
Is the style of leadership that got the company to this point most appropriate to guide its future development?
12. Leaders and followers
Should a company that teaches leadership also teach followership?
© Robert M. Tomasko 2002
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