After all these years, CEOs remain dismayed about the low impact of leadership development. Boston Consulting Group claims that their research conducted in 2015 with 1,500 global executives demonstrates that businesses worldwide have wasted $40 billion in leadership development initiatives.
While likely overstated, BCG’s conclusion does illustrate an important issue about how we have all historically approached leadership development. The majority of initiatives designed to develop leaders come unconsciously from an individual-centric mindset. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. Helping individual leaders develop their personal and interpersonal leadership approach has definite benefit. But, it puts the cart before the horse.
Understanding your enterprise as a system needs to come first. There are four fundamentally different customer promises and each one requires its own unique culture and leadership approach. Each of the four is a unique system that links customer promise, culture and leadership. One size does not fit all. Take empowerment as an example. In many respects, empowerment is what leadership is all about. But, it is practiced in four fundamentally different ways. How it is practiced depends upon your unique customer promise and what is required to fully deliver on your promise. Not only does one size not fit all, when it is misapplied, it makes things worse.
If you want your leadership development initiatives to work and ‘payoff’ for you, take the system-centric approach.