Pulling Up Through the Ranks

Leadership development programs tend to be scarce: they are one of the first things to be cut when budgets run thin. But even when funds are allocated, such programs more often become credentialing exercises rather than real development: a company hand-picks workers who show promise and march them through a leadership training course, then gives them a certificate that qualifies them to be considered for openings in management. This is not the optimal approach to developing the future leaders of an organization.

A better technique is to focus on learning in the workplace rather than the classroom: give people challenging assignments, that require them to take on more authority than before, solve different kinds of problems, and network with different people.

Ensure that there is overlap between their objectives: the goals of the individual worker, and every business unit, should correlate to the goals of the organization, and there should be opportunity for the individual to go above and beyond his routine duties to serve the goals of the organization.

Since companies are dynamic, so are the skills needed of leadership: te company that carefully puts together a grid of development for acquiring specific skills is often teaching by last year's textbook.

Formal training may be beneficial, but it should be applied logically: rather than a one-size-fits-all "leadership" course for all individuals in all roles, seek instances and opportunities where specific individuals can benefit from specific training to accomplish specific missions.

But a prerequisite to all of this is a company placing an emphasis on development, and putting its budget where its mouth is, as well as fostering an environment where employees at every level take responsibility for their own development.