Building a Leadership Development Program, Part 2

In our last post, we discussed the first three “success elements” of implementing a leadership development program: clearly defined outcomes, holistic structure, and targeted learning methodology.  While these foundational elements ensure that that the program will meet your organizational needs by supporting your current capability and desired state, the next two elements (tiered content and competency model) provide the basis for aligning individual needs with the overall structure.  The “one size fits all” approach typically does not work for most employees and leaders are no different.  Put simply, different leaders possess different needs. 

·Element 4: Tiered Content

Like any profession, there are phases of development and associated capabilities that correspond with growth as a leader.  Most research demonstrates that leadership begins with being able to manage one’s self.  After developing the ability to manage our own actions and outcomes, we manage a team or teams of direct reports.  Based on mastery of the team-based method of execution, we eventually start to manage other managers, followed by larger functional areas, and eventually the organization.  The skills, abilities, and experiences overlap some between the levels of leadership, but clearly, there are more requirements as we lead larger groups of people and components of an organization.  Successful leadership development programs match the approach, content, and experiences to the typical requirement level of the developing leader.  Figure 1 (below) captures a common approach to leveling for leadership development. From an organizational structure standpoint, aspiring leaders would start with learning to lead themselves, supervisors would focus on leading teams, various levels of managers would increase their ability to manage other managers, and higher-level managers and executives focus on the content in leading areas.  Although different levels possess a set of discrete skills, lower level skills continue to play a role in a leader’s success as he or she progresses through the series. For example, a supervisor would need to master self-management as well as managing teams if he or she leads to his or her full potential.

Figure 1

Level or Tier of Leadership Development

Element 5: Comprehensive and Aligned Competency Model

Successful leadership development programs identify specific, relevant leadership competencies that match their organization and its goals.  Research demonstrates that having arbitrary leadership competencies provide some value, but exceptional results correlate with organizations that customize their competencies to match their strategic needs and their “ideal leader” profile.  A common “best practice” approach to ensuring a comprehensive as well as aligned model begins with identifying top performs at all levels of the organization and profiling their characteristics, attributes, and abilities.  This approach allows an organization to develop a comprehensive inventory of leadership competencies, structural model of the linkages between competency combinations and organizational outcomes, and potential guidelines for “customizable” elements of the model.  This approach not only leads to the most useful model, but also assists with providing a strong foundation for succession planning, general career development, and other talent-related processes.

As we move to our final set of elements, we will turn our attention to those factors that help us determine how successful we are and how we can improve.


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