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Focus Leadership Development on Performance

Business Leadership Requires Competency and Performance

"As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The person who grasps principles can successfully select methods. The person who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leadership performance, in a business context, ought to result business performance. I may be stating the obvious, but too often our leadership development programs miss the mark. They are discussions of leadership traits. They are exercises in feedback on characteristics. They are assessments of personal competencies. They are explorations of "know thyself." They provide feedback on style, characteristics, and behaviors.


That's not enough. Sorry to say, but that is not enough.


Yes, leadership development requires competency development, trait identification, and feedback from your peers and others. Yes, that's important. It's not enough though.


What's missing? What else do we need? Performance. Oh. Yeah. That's what's missing.


Recently, I partnered with an Talent Development team to build a Fortune 500 leadership development program. At first, we identified these prospective leaders' competency needs. We had a list of thirteen competencies. Thirteen!! Despite the cognitive research that suggests we can only hold about 4 things in short term memory, we wanted leaders to develop thirteen 'key' competencies. To what end? What competencies does the business need? Well, we didn't know. We realized we needed to find out. Fast.


So, we re-calibrated the program to business performance. With a bit of legwork, we found the company priorities included: growth, innovative products, operational execution, and talent. The firm was making promises to Wall Street and others around these few themes. Once we had business results clearly defined, we found that we could narrow to just 4 or 5 competencies, rather than thirteen. Whew! These four or five things could logically and compellingly be tied to business performance. We also could engage executives and other business stakeholders in leader development in a much more precise way.


That's the one-two punch that makes leadership development efforts return so much value to their companies. With a blended perspective on competency AND performance, we can really make a big difference. Leadership is happening in a business after all, and this fact should influence leadership development.

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