Sunday, October 23, 2011

Integrated Leadership Development - Potential Answer to the Importance-Effectiveness Gap


I have written a couple of times about the gap between the importance of leadership development activities and the effectiveness of organization's efforts. Typically a pretty large gap exists...many understand its importance, but have a really hard time with determining their effectiveness at doing it.

Research from Dr. David Weiss and Dr. Vince Molinaro, from their book "The Leadership Gap: Building Leadership Capacity for Competitive Advantage" may present a solution.

In the book, Weiss and Molinaro indicate that "Emerging research links an organization's ability to develop its leadership capacity to it's competitive advantage." this is important as other research cited by the two indicates a linkage between the greater the robustness of a company's leadership capacity and the greater its financial return in critical financial measures such as shareholder returns, growth in net increase, growth in market share and return on sales. Pretty significant linkages as we discussed in an earlier DNA of Human Capital piece on an apparent lack of linkage between leadership and organizational performance titled "Leadership and Organizational Performance...Lack of Linkage."

Weiss and Molinaro discuss the differences and importance of the single-solution and multiple-solution approach to leadership development and that while single-solution is probably the most prevalent...the multiple-solution approach represents a more evolved approach. Because leaders are exposed to a greater number of leadership development options, they are better positioned to develop leadership capacity utilizing a mixture of options around assessment, coaching, learning and experiences.

Weiss and Molinaro discuss several factors creating a new sense of urgency in leadership development activities and driving an integrated approach. These include...

1. The complex business environment - understanding that leaders operate in environments that are more complex and intense than before.
2. The need to deliver results on many levels - pressure is on leaderships development activities to deliver results in transference of skills and ides to leaders, enhance leader performance, reinforce corporate culture and values, drive business results and adapt to changing business realities.
3. The high expectations of leaders - Senior executives want to see their investment in leadership development maximized and deliver on the promise of increase leadership capacity.
4. The need to sort through a maze of leadership development options - Leadership development is big business. Estimated to be as much as $50B per year business. There is much to choose from, but what makes sense?

Because of this, Weiss and Molinaro propose integrated-solution approach to leadership development. This includes the following components:

1. Develop a comprehensive strategy for integrated leadership development - A strategy defines what kind of leader the organization needs. The strategy also ensures development options are relevant, align to business needs, and add value to leaders.
2. Connect leadership development to the organization's environmental challenges - Connecting leadership development to an organization's environmental challenges creates focus and ensures that leadership development is being used to prepare leaders to succeed in the future.
3. Use the leadership story to set the context for development - Organizations need to have and use a compelling story to tell employees what the organizational leadership philosophy and culture is. The story serves as a focal point for development options.
4. Balance global enterprise-wide needs with local individual needs - Organizations must identify development options that are needed by all leaders of the organization such as creating a common leadership culture, enhancing core leadership competencies and responding to changes in the business environment.
5. Employ emergent design and implementation - because the business environment is now so much more complex, this suggests that leadership development must be emergent in that organizations must continually be in touch with what is happening in the business and be ready to respond to it.
6. Ensure that development options fit the culture - Leadership development options must fit in the culture and the organization's readiness.
7. Focus on critical moments of the leadership lifecycle - Leadership development focuses on new ways of thinking specific to leader roles and their transition points. Times when leaders are at their highest risk is when at these leadership transition points between new positions and activities.
8. Apply a blended methodology - Blending various solutions involving assessment, coaching, learning and experience are key to leadership development.

While this approach suggested by the authors is more complex, it has greater potential to create the leadership capacity needed within organizations to succeed. For your leadership development organizations to create and execute an integrated leadership development you will need a team whose leader can take a systems thinking approach in seeing the forest from the trees and the right people to execute their component of the approach.


  1. Keith,

    From the post I was a little unclear about the terminology "single-solution" and "multiple-solution". Do these relate to the approaches taken to leadership development, such as classes-only would be single-solution and classes + coaching + designed rotation would be a multiple solution? Or does it relate to the leader's repetoire once development is completed? Thanks.

  2. Hi David...

    You are correct...the authors make the point that most leadership development environments are single-solution...classroom primarily and not multiple-solution. While our own is a multiple-solution environment...I am finding the need to review the integration of the four options to determine the proper mix. For example, I found that we were using two different 360scheduling assessment in three of my programs. Makes it hard to make meaningful comparisons between leadership capability.

    Thanks for question...


  3. Just saw your tweet re: Reagan on leadership as formulating a vision. I would say formulating and selling a vision...