McKinsey recently conducted a study of what CEOs were doing about leadership development. The study showed that 90% of CEOs said that in the next five years (2015 to 2020) their companies would invest more than ever in leadership development. The study also showed that 63% of CEOs were highly doubtful that the leadership development efforts would be effective.
I recently had a conversation with a CEO and CHRO about a leadership workshop I was designing called Find Your Greatness. The CEO asked me: How do you expect to show better results than the typical leadership workshop? My answer: What we are going to do will be nothing like the typical leadership program. We’re going to expand the aperture and do something radically different. It’s going to be a life-altering experience where people discover and express the greatness inside them. This naturally leads to finding an opportunity to celebrate and express it in their present company or elsewhere.
There is not a shred of evidence that shows that the typical leadership development program has any impact on people’s leadership ability.
Noel Tichy, former head of the Jack Welch Leadership Institute at GE and Professor at the University of Michigan, says that the paradigm for 90% of leadership development programs is wrong, and if you get the paradigm wrong, everything else will be wrong. Says Tichy, “one of the big problems is trying to tether leadership development to match the autocratic and bureaucratic cultures that exist in almost every Fortune 500 company today. If the cultural clearing doesn’t allow for and pull for leadership, you can’t expect a miracle from a leadership development program.”
Further, these programs see development as a function of listening to lectures about leadership characteristics and traits in a classroom, corporate homogenized competency lists, and the most superficial 360 feedback, “check the boxes 1 to 5.” According to Tichy, despite hundreds of books, thousands of programs, and millions of dollars spent, there is not a shred of evidence that this approach to leadership development works.
Our goal has been to do leadership programs that are a 10X improvement on your typical corporate leadership development program.
So in effect, what we decided to do was to design a leadership development program that in fact was a 10X improvement over the typical corporate program. The goal is to develop leaders who can change the world, not just to develop leaders who fit into corporate culture and be guardians of the status quo. We want to invite leaders from politics, business, and civil society, as it’s a collaboration between the three that will have an impact on life.
We felt that the first step is getting high potential leaders outside their own building and cultural milieu and into our building. We are creating a conference center in the Boston area near Harvard for this reason. We want to establish a cultural island where people stop seeing leadership purely in terms of getting to the top, and start seeing it as making a difference that matters. I like Richard Branson’s comment that he has always seen a company as a group of people trying to find a way to improve other people’s everyday lives.
The starting point for The Leadership Workshop is the simple observation that people want to be great. Greatness is in our DNA code. Nobody wants to be mediocre. Not only do they want to be great, they want to make a difference, to have an impact, to be effective. The problem is this part of themselves goes to sleep when they become part of a big company or big government organization.
So the first goal of the leadership workshop is to reawaken in people their own innate desire to be great, to not fall prey to mediocrity, and from there help them to recognize opportunities to make a difference when they are presented with them and dare to act in a way that matters.
Leadership Development is not counter intuitive.
If you think about leadership development, it’s been happening for thousands of years of human history, often without leadership development programs. We have identified four design elements that naturally lead to developing great leaders and will incorporate them into the program. We are combining a 2-3 day total immersion experience, with follow up coaching on Google hangouts and one to one coaching.
* Emerging Leaders Need Hero’s. Ordinary people, you and I, admire leaders who came from nothing, but who stuck their neck out to make some kind of difference. For example, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy were heroes who inspired a generation of young people to become leaders. In the Leadership Workshop, people hear stories about great leaders in politics, business, and other fields, and then learn how to let the hero inside themselves out.
* Leadership emerges in taking a stand and discovering yourself as the stand that you take. In the Leadership Workshop we ask people: Do you want to be “chocolate” or “vanilla”? Chocolate represents taking a stand for something that matters and making a difference. Vanilla represents just doing whatever you have to do to make a living. People want to be chocolate, but generally struggle with giving that up for the security of vanilla. Once they choose chocolate, we ask them to identify a single big opportunity in business, government, or civil society where they can make a difference.
* Leaders don’t just develop in the classroom, but through crucible experiences. This is summed up well in a quotation by James McNerney, CEO of Boeing, and we have incorporated this into the Leadership Workshop. Leaders develop through crucible experiences that involve accomplishing something in the business that seemed previously impossible with a team and having their integrity tested. In the normal course of events, people wait for these experiences to come to them. In the Leadership Workshop, we help bring these experiences to people through pivotal action learning projects that are high profile, high risk, and high reward. People develop and grow competency in the process of achieving something real.
* Relentless coaching. Great leaders throughout history developed through each of the above, together with relentless coaching and mentoring. Thomas Jefferson’s mentor was George Wythe, a man of high integrity, the warmest patriotism, and devoted to liberty and the natural rights of man. Martin Luther King’s mentor was Mahatma Gandhi. LBJ’s mentor was Franklin Roosevelt. In the Leadership Workshop, we talk about finding a coach or mentor who stands not only for a big vision, but also empowering values based on making a difference.
If you would like to sponsor a leadership workshop in your country, area, company, or group, let’s have a conversation!
For a brochure or more information about the leadership workshop, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Susan Youngquist at +1 617 953-6230.