Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cookie-Cutter Leadership Development...The Big F...

Recently Deloitte published its Human Capital Trends 2013 report. In the report there are a number of interesting pieces, which I highly recommend you look at, but I was driven to one in particular titled "Leadership.Next: Debunking the superhero myth."

This informative piece discusses what has historically been the focus of leadership development programs...building the same kind of super leaders that organizations think they need based on some kind of leadership competency model that has been identified as the answer to the organization's current problems or future growth. This approach continues to come under attack from a multitude of directions because of the nature of the business environment today.

I originally discussed it in a blog piece last year based on a report from the Center for Creative Leadership titled "Leadership Paradigm Shift Approaching...Rise of Collective Development" where I discussed the context of the report and implications to leadership development (Which has gone largely unchanged since World War I...Yes...World War I). This blog was based on the concept of the VUCA environment...a new normal of constant volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that old ways of developing leaders to deal with is unable to keep pace.

Just as the CCL piece discussed, so does the Deloitte piece...give up on cookie-cutter super leader programs. Look at building collective leadership capabilities through leadership diversity. Why? For starters, there is no way to create the same kind of leaders in organizations because we come from such vastly different backgrounds, experiences, influences of different people and different leadership strengths and weaknesses. This requires taking a different approach to understand these variabilities in leaders and network these vast differences in meaningful ways in organizations. That requires understanding leaders in an organization at a mush different level of depth and breadth...most certainly a big data challenge...With that is about building agile and adaptable networks of leaders that bring to bear their collective knowledge and abilities to bear on the most pressing business challenges within organizations...

So take a step back...and think about breaking that cookie-cutter.


Dr. J. Keith Dunbar is a Global Talent Management Leader...Creator of Talent, Leadership Capability, and Culture Change...He can be found connecting and sharing knowledge on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Twitter: JKeithDunbar
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Blog: DNA of Human Capital

The opinions or views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent the views of the SAIC.


  1. Keith, Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Super-hero myth! Leading the design of the Army's Senior Service College Fellowship curriculum, we definitely related to the VUCA concept. In addition, we focused on competencies outlined by the OPM. Additionally, though, in direct alignment with your thinking, we focused on Critical Thinking, Building Networks and Partnering with Others, as well as Developing and Maintaining Self Awareness. Another design approach for this program incorporated Peer Learning as a technique that could also be practiced in the actual work environment. Thanks for the validation! Marsha Dollarhide, Defense Acquitision University

  2. You are welcome Marsha...I know that VUCA as a concept came from great work in the Army...lot of people writing about it in business these days.