The companies I have worked for in my career have not offered a leadership training program. I have, however, been fortunate to identify mentors within most companies I’ve worked for that have provided this on an informal basis. Most of these mentors remain just that–in addition to being my friends–long after I leave the company. This is something that I’ll never be able to fully repay, short of offering similar guidance to others when the opportunity presents itself. The fact that I’ve never had a formal opportunity like this is what makes a recent blog post from Harvard Business Review so interesting to me.
Entitled “Where are Tomorrow’s IT Leaders?” (although you could substitute almost any corporate department for IT in the title), the author–Susan Cramm–uses an anecdotal story of a meeting she was recently in to describe how the leaders she was talking to had been developed–five, 10, even 15 years ago– and that the next generation of leaders weren’t being groomed to take their place when the time came.
In the case of IT, specifically, Ms. Cramm points to the use of out-sourcing (including, but not limited to, off-shoring) as draining the leadership pipeline at many organizations because the once available career paths from junior level positions leading to mid-level managers, and on up have largely disappeared in some companies. One option that many companies take is to hire from outside of the organization (especially from the ranks of consultants) but history has shown us this practice, more often than not, will not lead to success.
Even if an organization identifies a good leadership candidate and tries to develop them over time the individual still might leave. A recent blog post from catalystspace lists “7 Reasons Leaders Quit Your Organization”:
- They couldn’t live out their personal vision.
- They were told no too many times.
- They felt unappreciated/never recognized for their abilities.
- They were given on voice.
- They were left clueless as to the future of the organization.
- Their vision doesn’t match the vision of the organization.
- They were micromanaged.
I completely agree with all seven of these points and have personally felt all of them at different points in my career. I would add and eights item to their list, however: They never felt that the organization would be loyal to them.
Loyalty, I know, should be a two-way street, but if an organization doesn’t show loyalty to their employees why would those employees ever show loyalty to the organization? Too often, organizations reward hard work, dedication, and leadership with micromanagement, zero recognition, and a sense that their employees are nothing more than a cost center to be managed and, hopefully, one day cut.
This is what I call an artificial productivity enhancer. This is when there is enough work for two employees but the organization decides to eliminate one of the positions to cut costs and simply asks the remaining worker to do twice the work. This panacea is a 100 percent increase in productivity for little (to zero) additional cost (perhaps they offer a meager raise to the remaining employee). What CEO or CFO wouldn’t love to see that situation play out countless times in their organization?
The problem is, if employees feel that this may happen regardless of what they produce, why would they choose to stay for the long-term?
Not all organizations can afford to have a large-scale and expensive leadership training program but can any organization really afford not to seek out its most promising leaders and develop them in some form or fashion? I’m not even talking about succession planning at this point (although that can be just as critical for organizations of all shapes and sizes) but rather a program that exposes potential leaders to (hopefully) all areas of the organization, allows them to develop their skills in any number of areas, and keeps them motivated to stay with the organization, continue to work hard, and deliver stellar results.
Granted, some leaders will still leave, most likely for one of the reasons mentioned above, but many will not, which will provide a good pipeline of future senior leaders to maintain the progress of the organization in which they serve. I’m not sure if there’s much of an alternative. Do you?