Secrets of Leadership Success

By Drew Stevens Ph.D.

A recent IBM Global Human Capital Study mentions that 40 percent of organizations believe that a lack of leadership capability is one of the primary workforce related issues. As companies and employees grow and mature one of the ailments of many organizations is developing the needed bench strength for the future.

As researchers in this area we notice several factors that contribute to these issues:

  1. Succession Planning – Both an aging workforce and ineffective succession planning continually impact leadership development. A recent Wall Street Journal article “Hiring a CEO from the Outside is More Expensive” depicts the issues organizations face due to ineffective succession planning. Executive pay tracker Equilar found that firms typically pay 65% more to hire outside CEO’s. With burdensome profits and a failing economy organizations need to save costs wherever possible.
  2. Knowledge Management – We live in a knowledge economy and as oftentimes written when individuals leave organizations, they take with them knowledge. Content is king and much as heirs and heiresses pass down fortunes, knowledge must be treated similarly. Leaders must allow employees to cross pollinate and learn each area of the business. In the not too distant past many CEO’s began in the mailroom.
  3. Talent Acquisition – The best method for succession planning begins with hiring the right people.  Not enough firms spend time here. According to a 2007 study of 37,000 employees (Manpower), 41 percent of companies worldwide are having trouble finding suitable talent. Make this a priority. Look inside and outside the organization for those individuals that can impact the organization.
  4. Skill Acquisition – Productivity begins with understanding the job function, the industry and the competition. Not enough time is spent on training and development. Too many firms use e-learning and software to augment human interaction and investment. However, firms are not seeing sufficient returns. For production to rise, more commitment must be spent on training and development. Further most organizations believe that a one time training event will boost productivity. This is untrue. Training is an inducement to change behavior, such augmentation taking months to rehabilitate. Training is an investment, a process that must be taken seriously.
  5. Dichotomy – The success of FedEx, Disney, Southwest and many other top-flight organizations is the spirit and passion binding the culture. Individuals love leaders that communicate, respond to queries and allow all to share a common voice. Participative management is a leadership trait envied by many.

Leadership today requires a different business strategy. While many have coined phrases such as Sale, Web and Business 2.0, there is also a need for Leadership 2.0. With so much change and turbulence there is a need for a nimble, faster and yet pragmatic leader. The need for knowledgeable quick leaders is more prevalent then ever before. Organizations must work smarter not harder to remain competitive and the successful leader is pinnacle to its success.

©2008 Drew Stevens Ph.D. All rights reserved.


5 Responses to “Secrets of Leadership Success”

  1. Loretta Shropshire says:

    Excellent article. Do you have any more information on the research?

  2. Saradhi Motamarri says:

    A few decades ago, I read a quotation of Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr:

    “There is something much more scarce and rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognise ability.”

    How true is this! How many care about this?

    We walk, we find a piece, we threw away not knowing it is a diamond. Is it the fault of the diamond? Or is it the fault of the onlooker?

    In the current mesmarised world, the yardsticks for measurement are oft founded on inconsistencies. For example, why the organisations are only responsible to shareholders, why not to the geneal community it serves? What happens to the people across globe who are true, committed to good ethics and have the right attitude to lead. They are not at the leading edge…

    Can the situation change? Yes. If we all collectively recognise what is needed.

    To this end I prepared a thesis: ‘The mark of leadership is the inability to differentiate the art and science.’ Unpublished. I tried a couple of avenues to publish, but there is no commercial value, so no one…

    :) Saradhi.

  3. In the high tech industry, at least, one of the largest failings I have seen is a lack of grooming. I worked in one company that had extensive in person leadership and management training. But that training was only available (actually required) for people who were already managers. If someone was trying to better themselves or be groomed by a senior, they could not benefit from this training. You essentially had to prove you were management material, before ever getting the corporate management training.
    Couple this with the all too common practice that internal promotions cannot match moving to a new company and there isn’t a lot of opportunity for recruiting management from with in.

    Until companies start to recognize the value of the untapped assets inside their wall, we will continue this cycle.

  4. Prem Valluru says:

    Great article … thanks for posting.

  5. Prem Valluru says:

    Great article. The bench strength and leadership pipeline are very important in the current trend changing environment. Expectancy level is raising high and individuals have to master the leadership for future growth, not only self but for company’s sustainability.

    I agree that improving bench strength for the companies are foundation for future leadership. People must constantly improve their level of expertise, gone are the days with sound experience would attain the positions, remember leadership reruires expertise on other ares also (Kaizen, splitting the detailed scope to smaller activities, assigning cost, time and resource, facilitating events, directing teams etc).

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