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What Makes (and Breaks) Global Leadership Development

When it comes to global leadership development, organizations need to understand the answers to two basic questions: What's driving it? What's holding it back?

Surprisingly, the senior management team may have a hand in both.

What drives global leadership development

First, let's examine the key drivers of an organization's global leadership development process. This is one of the critical survey questions we seek to understand in the annual global leadership development study conducted in partnership by Institute for Corporate Productivity's (i4cp) and the American Management Association (AMA) and Training magazine.

  • Leadership competencies that have been derived from long-term business strategies and expressed corporate values remain the two primary drivers of the global leadership development process, and these emanate from the senior management team. Overall, two-thirds of study participants selected each of these two factors as significant drivers this year, and there's good reason: both have proven to be key differentiators between high-performance organizations and low-performance organizations in terms of market performance.
  • Competency gaps identified through our strategic workforce planning process escalated in importance this year from 5th place in 2012 to 3rd place, returning an even larger differentiation between high-performance organizations and lower performers than the top two drivers. This indicates that the forward-thinking involved in strategic workforce planning identifies competencies needed to anticipate and adapt to change and reflects them in the content of global leadership development programs, a practice found to be correlated to global leadership development effectiveness.
  • Specific requests or direction from the senior management team is the 4th-ranked driver in 2013, another factor found to be correlated to market performance. This suggests that leaders who take an active role in partnering with global leadership development efforts to advise on the competencies needed to build a strong global team are having an impact on the organization's bottom line.

Obstacles to success

It is also important to understand what is keeping organizations from delivering effective global leadership development. This insight is necessary for creating approaches to overcome these obstacles.

  • Lack of budget/budget constraints topped the list in the 2013 survey. The inadequacy of financial resources is not an uncommon obstacle, and many organizations struggle, specifically, with finding the budget to build and maintain a robust leadership development program.
  • Lack of executive leader sponsorship, however, is a notable barrier in two ways: First, global leadership development effectiveness is negatively correlated to this lack of sponsorship. Second, when the senior management team offers direction to the global leadership development process, organizations see a correlation to market performance, as noted in the drivers presented above. So, when senior leaders are seen as visible sponsors of global leadership development through their participation and direction, such actions correlate to both market performance and effective global leadership development.

The 60-minute global leadership development audit

Organizations that want to take the pulse of their global leadership development programs can gather their senior leadership team for a quick (one-hour) audit. Start by spending 15 minutes having each leader contemplate their answers to the questions below. Then spend 30 minutes sharing responses to identify common-thinking and outliers. Spend the last 15 minutes creating a next-steps agenda to address priority issues.

  • Are our long-term business strategies still valid?
  • Do our expressed corporate values still make sense for us?
  • Does our global leadership development initiative reflect those strategies and values?
  • Does our global leadership development initiative reflect the needs uncovered by our strategic workforce planning process?
  • Are we allocating sufficient financial resources to our global leadership development efforts?
  • Are we, as leaders, seen as visible sponsors to our global leadership development initiative?

Combining forward-thinking with established corporate values allows organizations to leverage the best of both worlds in creating their global leadership development programs. Demonstrating executive team involvement and sponsorship will lead that global leadership development initiative well into the future.