5 Big Ideas: What’s Next for Leadership Development?

In MHO, when it comes to leadership development, the Center for Creative Leadership is second to none.  I’ve sung CCL’s praises before – I love their research-based approach, resources, programs, and products.

So when I came across CCL’s 2011-2012 Annual Report called What’s Next for Leadership? 5 Big Ideas, I got all geeked up and couldn’t wait to dig in.

I really do enjoy keeping up with what’s going on in the field. Innovation is important in any profession, and leadership development is no exception. Please, spare me the fads, but by all means, let’s stay open to emerging best practices and promising looking trends.

I’d encourage you to read the full 32 page report yourself, but if you’d like the Cliff Notes version (with my biased and twisted commentary), here it is:

Big idea #1: The merging fields of leadership and neuroscience.

Great leaders need to be creative, solve complex problems, make connections, make decisions, and manage relationships. Well, if the brain is reacting to some perceived threat, it’s going to short-circuit a leader’s ability to be effective in those critical leadership thinking capabilities. Makes sense, right?

CCL is studying research from the fields of brain science, positive psychology, mindfulness, meditation, and others to make interesting and relevant connections between improving how brain functions in order to improve our ability to lead.
So what are the practical implications for leaders today? You can start with getting a better night’s sleep, taking a walk, meditating, and breathing slowing and deeply when faced with stress. In the future, technology may play a role, by giving us sensors that will tip us off to when we need slow down and chose a response to stress, rather than just letting the prefrontal cortex of your brain take over and make you act like an idiot.

Big idea #2: Make leadership development more accessible and affordable.

Leadership development has always been a scarce resource applied selectively. Developed countries, big companies, and experienced executives tend to get more leadership development than impoverished countries, small companies and lower level individual contributors.

CCL is challenging that paradigm. They are pursuing the goal of making leadership development more affordable and accessible in the world with some remarkable results. Why not? Today, more than ever, today’s Gen Y employees want to work for companies that are not only about making a profit – they want to contribute to the greater social good and make the world a better place.
Companies, governments, and individuals make all kinds of contributions in the form of money, food, and other services. Why not donate – and invest – in helping aspiring leaders realize their full potential? Wouldn’t we all benefit in the long run?

So where can we start? How about if we offer scholarships to our leadership development programs? How about if every executive coach took on a “pro bono” client? How about if companies stated offering leadership training to all their employees, not just executives and “high potentials”?

Big idea #3: The power of networks.

Networks and networking are hot, hot, hot. The last few conferences I’ve attended all had speakers talking about the power of networks and network analysis. They offer all kinds of new ways to measure who has the strongest networks and consulting services to help companies leverage their networks.

There are certainly leadership implications to this relatively new field. For example, according to CCL, “5% of people in your organization hold 30% of the relationships. Even fewer hold the ties that bridge organizational roles and functions. And most of your relationship “brokers” aren’t considered formal “leadership”.

Network analysis may change the way we assess leadership potential, lead change, recruit and retain, innovate, and how we collaborate to achieve results.

Big idea #4: Nonprofit leadership development.

Research indicates that 3 out of 4 nonprofit executive leaders will retire in the next six years, leaving a significant leadership deficit. A majority of board leaders are also expected to retire in the near future.

Unfortunately, due to tight funding and barebones staffing, the non-profit sector has not invested in leadership development. According to CCL’s Karen Dyer, Director of CCL’s Education and Nonprofit sector, “The sector is starting to see the implications of this neglect. We have a capacity gap that will require significant investments and new approaches to attract keep and grow effective, creative nonprofit leaders.”

The nonprofit sector includes human services, hospitals, education, arts, environment and civic engagement. Also under the nonprofit umbrella are entities such as testamentary trusts, fraternal groups, recreational leagues, trade associations and foundations.

We’re ALL going to be affected by this leadership crisis if we don’t start doing something about it today.

American Express and CCL have a model that’s working. The American Express Leadership Academy has helped more than 300 emerging leaders in not-for-profit organizations build the skills needed to run a successful organization through a weeklong program, funded by American Express.

I like the model and encourage more companies and individuals to step up to the challenge.

Big idea #5: Measure the impact of coaching.

Coaching is a $2 billion dollar business and growing. Yes, due to a lack of metrics, limited research to quantify impact, and inconsistent coaching standards, it’s difficult for businesses to evaluate the results of executive coaching. They tend to rely on a leap of faith that it’s working, and depend on word of mouth referrals when selecting a coach.

Of the estimated 400 coach training organizations that offer education and certification, none of them formally evaluate their coaches after they have been certified.

CCL’s answer to this challenge is a new product designed to measure coaching effectiveness, the Coaching Evaluation Assessment, or CEA.

Frankly, this part of the CCL report smacks of a bit of self-serving product marketing, but they make a good point. Then again, you could say the same thing (a lack of measurement and standards) about the corporate training industry and higher education, and no one has seemed to figure those out. Well, some have, but few have actually chosen to do anything about it.
So what are your reactions to these “big ideas”? What would you add to the list?
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