Leaders Leading Leadership Development
A quote attributed to Ralph Nadar, consumer advocate, lawyer, and author, states: “I start with the premise, that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” The leadership in small to mid-sized organizations often fail to see a need for leadership development. Considering two facts should make it obvious that leadership development is essential to the survival of such organizations. A White Paper by Center for Creative Leadership echoes this idea.
Fact One: An organization is either growing or dying
Fact Two: Leadership will be needed to guide growth, sustain growth, and take growth into the future.
Let’s take a deeper look at fact one. Organizations must grow in some capacity, either more customers or more revenue. The leadership that brings the company to one level, may not necessarily have the skills to either sustain that level or take the company to the next level.
Today, this is truer than ever. Why? As an organization grows, changes become more frequent, more encompassing, and therefore carry greater impact. Technology, while part of growth and the change it brings, also requires at least some modicum of understanding of its effect on the company, the staff, products, services, the market, customers, and other stakeholders.
The second fact addresses that an organization cannot be at the ready to grow its leadership without a succession plan. Having a succession plan involves leadership development. The earlier the organization begins its leadership development program; the easier leadership transitions will become and the more obstacles will be lessened. As an illustration, following is a brief case study.
An organization is in growth mode. This growth is being fueled through new customer acquisition. Leading customer acquisition is a new marketing executive who is leading a new marketing program. Additional growth is being accomplished via both opening new offices and acquiring other companies. An obviously, aggressive growth initiative.
Being promoted through the ranks, the CEO has been with the organization for over 30 years and is nearing retirement age. Over three years ago, in a meeting with the executives, at least one consultant advised them that a training program would be a great benefit to the organization. It is just being put together now.
While, albeit a bit slow in coming, the decision in hiring a corporate trainer and having one of the first projects to develop and launch a leadership program is a good one, the next decision - not so much.
One executive quit after being on the job less than two years. Her department’s work was distributed among three different departments. This may seem like a good move to save payroll; however, it had been tried previously and failed, which is why the departing executive had been hired in the first place. The CEO thought that it might work this time as there were a few new executives in the organization who could handle the additional work load. Is this a case of being stuck in small thinking and not seeing the big picture? Unfortunately, one of these new executives who was assigned part of this workload suddenly handed in his resignation. Here is the clincher. This executive had been identified by the CEO and the Board as the next CEO. Was the extra work assignment meant to be a test? If it was, the extra work wasn’t the reason the executive handed in his resignation. It was to pursue another avenue that the executive had even discussed with the CEO at one time, but apparently the CEO failed to pick up on the clues.
This executive had not been told he had been identified as the CEO’s successor (a case of procrastination?) and even if he had been told, there was no leadership development program in place to guide him. This organization will struggle. Some of the struggle and chaos that will no doubt ensue could have been prevented had leadership given some focus on its own leadership development and not piled a risky decision on top of that.
The pursuit of organizational growth cannot be achieved with small thinking. Be sure that your leadership team is developing more leaders and looking at the big picture.
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