Leadership Development – what works

I’ve been thinking again about how to combine leadership development with charity work in third world countries. Last year I started developing the concept of sending mid-level managers to lead action learning projects in third world countries on behalf of charity organisations. I tested a version of this concept with Jules Routledge and AFADU and we learned a lot about what is needed to support leaders in such environments, especially leaders who see themselves as primarily technical experts.

My preliminary conclusion is that this sort of action learning project is useful for mid level managers, because it exposes them to totally new environments and stretches their influencing skills, but is a bit too much of a challenge for new/technical leaders, unless they already have a good base of people skills.

Over Easter, I was interested to read an article sourced from my favourite HR website www.HR.com, which seems to support my thinking.

They quoted a Hay Group study “Best companies for Leaders” which surveys organisations to find out “the best practices for identifying and fostering leadership talent”.

The Hay Group found that the top three practices were:
* Having leaders at all levels who focus on creating a work climate that motivates employees to perform at their best.
* Ensuring that the company and its senior management make leadership development a top priority.
* Providing training and coaching to help intact leadership teams, as well as the individual leaders, work together more effectively.

The remaining best practices highlight the need to start early on mid-level managers and high potentials (and indicates that perhaps my idea will grow legs):

* Rotational job assignments for high potentials.
* External leadership development programs for mid-level managers.
* Web-based self study leadership modules for mid-level managers.
* Executive MBA programs for mid-level managers.

They also found some activities that appeared not to achieve the stated goals of leadership development…

Outdoor activity-based programs at all levels of management (unless debriefers can translate the physical & metaphorical to work situations)
Paper-based self-study leadership modules at all levels of management (hard to learn interpersonal skills from paper)
Job-shadowing, Executive MBA and Web-based self-study for Senior Managers (too late / wrong format)

I’d be interested to hear the views of other leadership development designers – whether you agree or disagree.

For further details visit www.haygroup.com and search for ‘Best Companies for Leaders’ or visit www.hr.com and search for ‘Rick Lash’

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