A step change in leadership development

Kimo Kippen says leadership development needs to change.

In the Tour de France, cyclists roll like human-powered trains around corners, up and down hills, and through roadside villages. Teams practice precise rotations in and out of the lead to block the wind, before returning into team formation to conserve energy and tap each member’s strengths to sustain a collective pace.

But team members change, as do the course and weather. So each year, teams must synchronise anew, assign roles, and craft a strategy that reflects the potential of each of its nine riders. 

It’s a system that stands in stark contrast to the prevailing approach to leadership development in the United States. While organisations and executives often believe in the potential of teams, they continue to invest in leadership development strategies rooted in the skill gaps of individual leaders.

And because development often addresses executive succession, not the current business strategy, it’s as if riders never see a map of the course ahead of them. 

The limitations of analogue leadership development strategies are having an impact. Research has shown that as little as 8% of executives think that their company is effective in developing leaders. In a survey conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, two-thirds of companies said they were failing at the task.

The limitations of analogue leadership development strategies are having an impact.

Executives are coming to terms with the fact that leadership development is not converting into wide scale enterprise change. In fact, according to a study from learning effectiveness expert Dr. Robert Brinkerhoff, only 15% of leaders who receive training go on to create change within a company, according to a study from learning effectiveness expert Dr. Robert Brinkerhoff. 

But change is possible. When I oversaw the learning organisation at Hilton, we invested in, and relied upon, data to inform our approach to identifying – and developing – leadership talent. We developed leadership by building the capacity of teams, as well as people. Hilton’s guest scores, brand loyalty, and foothold in the global market all improved as a result. 

Healthcare leader Aetna has a similar story. The VP of Aetna University, Ted Fleming, implemented a ‘Moneyball’ approach to leadership development that leverages predictive analytics to surface leadership potential as it relates to business needs.

They established a set of metrics to analyse the weaknesses of existing leadership and the success of development strategies. When learning became more like a science, and less like a chore, the best leaders became easier to identify. 

A new standard of analytics-driven development is on the horizon. Because it’s time for companies to not only give their leaders a bike to ride — but also the map and team that’s required to win the race.


About the author

Kimo Kippen is founder of Aloha Learning Advisors and recently authored the foreword to a white paper, “Protecting a Company’s Most Valuable Asset: Its Leadership Team.”  




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