engaged or are actively disengaged at work. These abysmal employee engagement scores appear to be an indictment of the leadership capabilities in many organizations.
FLAWS IN LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT Leadership development efforts often have four major flaws that make them less effective than they could be: • Many leadership development programs do not start with an effective needs assessment that outlines where the capability gaps are in the organization • These programs consist of a series of one-off programs and events, rather than an integrated system of development activities and opportunities • Many programs do not provide enough opportunities for active learning and application back to the business • Senior executives do not get involved in the programs and do not signal their commitment to the leadership development effort The best leadership development programs address each of the four potential deficiencies. Here’s how:
ASSESS NEEDS, NOT COMPETENCIES Many leadership development programs begin with an examination of the company’s competence model. These models often list the key skills and capabilities that leaders
must possess and deploy to be effective in the organization. The programs then seek to enhance these competencies among a cohort of rising leaders in the firm. What’s wrong with this approach? It presumes that the most pressing development needs in the organization match the competencies in the model. Perhaps they do. But in many cases, one or more of the competencies warrant much more attention at that particular point in time. The competency model may have become outdated altogether; leaders in the future might need a very different set of skills than those identified when the model was created. Crucial new development needs may have emerged recently due to a changing competitive landscape, changes in strategic direction, and/or the sudden departure of key talent. Some firms do conduct a needs assessment before they launch new development opportunities for talented managers. However, they go about this assessment in the wrong way. Leadership development professionals spend time interviewing and surveying top executives about the leadership development needs of managers who are several levels down in the organization. Too often, this research produces a set of quite generic responses from top executives. They want their people to be more collaborative, to be able to think strategically, or to be more decisive. What does that mean? Can we really build an effective leadership development approach based on such generalities? AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 33
Journal of The American Management Association