Where does leadership development strategy begin? My guess is that you can ask any number of leadership development professionals and not get a consistent answer.
I have been an organizational and leadership development consultant and professional for many years and have witnessed a myriad of approaches that corporations employ to develop their leaders. Some enterprises take a systemic approach, while others seem to tackle development like throwing wads of gum at the wall. As you would expect, the most successful enterprises consider leadership development as integral to their operations and think about it systemically.
In my opinion, best in class organizations begin with the end in mind when crafting their leadership development strategy. That end, contrary to what you might think, isn’t identifying what characteristics their leaders should exemplify. That end is actually their customers or their markets.
To make this strategic slant more concrete, let me outline a process that evolved from both my observations and my own executive educational experiences.
- Begin with identifying your key customers or the key markets you either want to retain or where you want to expand. Who are they? Where are they? What do they need from you? What can you provide them?
- Once you’ve identified where your business wants to play, spend a little time visioning what success will look like. What’s the end result if you’ve been wildly successful?
- Next, identify the desired internal cultural characteristics that would best enable your company to meet those market or customer requirements.
- Now that you have identified the desired cultural characteristics, you need to do a gap analysis. What’s your current state culture? Where is said culture in alignment with desired culture? Where is the current culture out of alignment?
- The results from the gap analysis give you a clear indication of where to place your efforts in developing a leadership strategy. While you want to ensure that you reinforce aligned elements of the current culture, the substance of your leadership development should focus on cultivating the desired cultural characteristics that are missing from the current state.
- Now you’re ready to shape your leadership development process to meet your market and customer demands.
Leadership development is a process and a journey – take some time to have some fun along the way.