Future Leadership

Leadership Excellence

April 9, 2010

by Marshall Goldsmith

The need for executive education is apparent. Key questions include: how can we learn from today’s best practitioners to understand the trends and challenges that will become the norm in the future? Are there “best” ways to develop current and future leaders? How will we pick our leaders? What process will transform managers into leaders ready for strategic action? Who will design, manage, and deliver world-class leadership programs?

What process will transform managers into leaders?

Leadership development is becoming closely aligned with and used to support corporate strategy. Issues such as globalization, decentralization, and the rapid pace of today’s marketplace have forced companies to evaluate the way they operate. Paradigms that have worked for years are no longer effective when an organization’s largest customer is thousands of miles away. Determining exactly how to turn these challenges into opportunities keeps many CEOs awake at night. Bold strategic initiatives are under way to revamp the way organizations do business while re-creating the workforce undertaking these efforts.

Best-practice organizations view the leadership development process as an increasing source of competitive advantage. If the leadership development process is to be an effective piece of the change process, it must be aligned with all strategic objectives. Leadership development initiatives have gone to great lengths to implement corporate strategy. Only by aligning their efforts will new leaders meet business challenges and global marketing constraints.

Focus on core issues. 

Corporate leadership development will focus more leadership skills and on core issues such as values and strategic change vital to the entire organization, while business units focus on management skills and challenges specific to their operations.

Focus on human resources development and business experience. 

Excellence in leadership development will involve teams that emphasize the importance of both human resources (HR) and business experience. At Arthur Andersen, Johnson & Johnson, and Shell International, the heads of the leadership development process have senior-level business experience. The presence of business leaders in these functions helps ensure buy-in from businesses and the practicality of programs.

Focus on internal and external factors. 

Leadership development efforts should be internally focused and externally aware. New business demands dictate the need for change but do not provide a framework for how to create the change. Whether started by the CEO, or bubbling up, the focus on building the skills of current and future leaders surfaces as a potential enabler of change. Creating a process to build leadership skills, abilities, and techniques has pushed leaders to look internally and externally for answers.

For the leadership development process to enable change, it must fit the culture. Those designing the leadership process can ensure this linkage by soliciting the input of customers. LE