Leadership Development: Big Company Programs and You

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There are two kinds of bosses who read this blog. Some of you work for companies with great leadership development programs. The rest of you don't. Whichever you are, you can still benefit from those programs.

Most big company programs outline similar development paths. You can find a good one in the book, The Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel. It's based on General Electric, but similar to other programs.

The book goes into lots of detail. It's written for senior managers of large companies who are concerned with designing such a pipeline. It will still work for you, but you will need to collapse some of the stages and modify some of the practices.

If you want a short overview of the process, the authors have made the opening chapter of the book available as a sample. You can use it as an introduction to the passages in the pipeline and a way to help decide if you want to buy the whole book.

Read up on companies who are known for leadership development. There are two well-known studies that attempt to name who those companies are.

One is created by the Hay Group and Chief Executive Magazine and titled "Best Companies for Leaders." The weakness of this survey is that you have to respond to their questionnaire in order to be considered for inclusion.

The other study is done by Hewitt and Fortune Magazine. They call their list "25 Top Companies for Leaders." They have a different survey process.

The two lists are strikingly different. They list different companies and in different order. Some companies known for good leadership development such as PepsiCo and Caterpillar are only on one list. And Enterprise, known for its management training program is on neither.

Don't worry about the rankings. You won't learn much from them. But remember that every company on either list is good at leadership development. Learn from what they do.

You can also get ideas from an excellent post by Dan McCarthy titled, "Leadership Development for “The Little Guys.”

Boss's Bottom Line

Top companies for leadership development all have a similar sequence of leadership development passages. Your sequence will probably be similar.

Analyze the topics and experiences that you can work into your own leadership development program.

Check out the following related posts

Becoming a Great Leader is Up to You

Leadership Development: Getting the Most from a Class

Leadership Development: Crafting Your Personal Development Plan

Leadership Development: When to hire a coach

Leadership Development: How to hire a coach

The Perfect Leadership Book for You


Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



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  • 1/9/2010 8:11 PM Matt Grawitch wrote:
    Wally: Nice review of the book. Definitely makes me want to purchase it (or at least check it out from my local library). I think your points at the end are a great example of equifinality. There likely is not one right way to create an effective leadership development program. It needs to meet the needs of your organization, the people you employ, the organization's culture, and industry, to name just a few key elements. The problem I have with lists is that they assume that the context in which something occurs (like a leadership development plan, workplace climate, etc.) can be evaluated from one company to another. Rather than a list, why not just create a category: great places for leaders (without trying to rank them). It would be almost like a critical threshold. The companies that surpass that threshold are included, and those they don't are not.
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    1. 1/10/2010 10:56 AM Wally Bock wrote:

      Good point, Matt. Once you add the ranking you change the nature of what you're looking at. The other big problem with these lists is that they either require a company to apply for consideration (meaning that some great companies don't show up) or they're a kind of black blox where experts (usually unidentified) select companies (without published criteria) and then rank them (without sharing the process they use). In the end, much of it comes down to name recognition.

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