In a recent CEO Institute Syndicate meeting, a guest speaker spoke on the imperatives of leadership development. He commented that CEOs come and go but leadership, if developed in a comprehensive way, endures. The moment a CEO starts a job, the clock starts ticking. Senior leaders must hit the ground running; formulating and executing transformational strategies. With an aim to create a better business.
While the CEO is a very important person, success requires the hard work of leaders at all levels, who must make countless decisions and behave in ways supportive of the strategic direction and overarching purpose of the organisation. Long term business performance comes from leadership culture and careful and continuous development of leadership at all levels.
Developing leaders from within the organisation is a priority for driving change. Leadership development can and should be a powerful tool at the CEO's disposal to advance strategic growth and execute change. CEOs have relatively few strategic levers to drive real strategic change. The predictable levers include compensation, budgeting, process improvement, increased measurement and accountability, new technologies, reorganisation and revitalised communications. That should make leadership development even more appealing. However to be effective, leadership development needs to be more than aligned with the business strategy - it needs to be part of the strategy.
Effective leadership development is a CEOs most underutilised tool to advance the execution of an ambitious strategic agenda. A company's level of maturity in their leadership development has a greater impact on their long term business performance than almost all else. And this impact transcends changes in the CEO.
Key learnings from guest speaker
- High-Performing enterprises directly link leadership strategy to business strategy
Regardless of who the CEO may be, operational execution takes place at the mid-level and supervisory level. When these individuals are well aligned, coached and trained, the enterprise prospers. High-performing companies understand this and build a leadership development regime which trains, supports and selects people who drive the company strategy. Doing this, they build execution into the culture.
- High-Performing enterprises develop leaders at all levels
High-performing businesses understand that execution takes place at the grass roots. It's the line managers, supervisors and middle managers who make things happen. If the CEO doesn't push his or her leadership strategy down effectively, it won’t take hold.
- High-Performing enterprises invest in leadership development
Research has found that the companies ranking top in leadership development maturity invest 30-40% more money in leadership than their peers.
- High performing companies develop a leadership philosophy
These companies don't just hire a consultant or send people to leadership courses. They develop their own unique, research-based leadership model.
The CEO plays a role, but not alone. When a new CEO enters a company one of the most important things they must do is assess the current leadership culture. They then decide how they want it to change. If they see too much complacency or lack of alignment, it's up to the CEO to drive a new culture of teamwork and accountability. Only when that message reaches the team will the company turn around.
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