5 Big Ideas: What’s Next for Leadership Development?

In MHO, when it comes to leadership development, the Center
for Creative Leadership is second to none.
I’ve sung CCL’s praises before – I love their research-based approach, resources, programs, and products.

So when I came across CCL’s 2011-2012 Annual Report called What’s
Next for Leadership? 5 Big Ideas,
I got all geeked up and couldn’t wait to
dig in.

I really do enjoy keeping up with what’s going on in the
field. Innovation is important in any profession, and leadership development is
no exception. Please, spare me the fads, but by all means, let’s stay open to
emerging best practices and promising looking trends.

I’d encourage you to read the full 32 page report yourself,
but if you’d like the Cliff Notes version (with my biased and twisted commentary), here it

Big idea #1: The
merging fields of leadership and neuroscience.

Great leaders need to be creative, solve complex problems,
make connections, make decisions, and manage relationships. Well, if the brain
is reacting to some perceived threat, it’s going to short-circuit a leader’s
ability to be effective in those critical leadership thinking capabilities. Makes sense, right?

CCL is studying research from the fields of brain science,
positive psychology, mindfulness, meditation, and others to make interesting
and relevant connections between improving how brain functions in order to
improve our ability to lead.

So what are the practical implications for leaders today?
You can start with getting a better night’s sleep, taking a walk, meditating,
and breathing slowing and deeply when faced with stress. In the future,
technology may play a role, by giving us sensors that will tip us off
to when we need slow down and chose a response to stress, rather than just
letting the prefrontal cortex of your brain take over and make you act like an

Big idea #2: Make
leadership development more accessible and affordable.

Leadership development has always been a scarce resource
applied selectively. Developed countries, big companies, and experienced
executives tend to get more leadership development than impoverished countries,
small companies and lower level individual contributors.

CCL is challenging that paradigm. They are pursuing the goal
of making leadership development more affordable and accessible in the world
with some remarkable results. Why not? Today, more than ever, today’s Gen Y employees
want to work for companies that are not only about making a profit – they want
to contribute to the greater social good and make the world a better place.

Companies, governments, and individuals make all kinds of
contributions in the form of money, food, and other services. Why not donate –
and invest – in helping aspiring leaders realize their full potential? Wouldn’t
we all benefit in the long run?

So where can we start? How about if we offer scholarships to
our leadership development programs? How about if every executive coach took on
a “pro bono” client? How about if companies stated offering leadership training
to all their employees, not just executives and “high potentials”?

Big idea #3: The
power of networks.

Networks and networking are hot, hot, hot. The last few
conferences I’ve attended all had speakers talking about the power of networks
and network analysis. They offer all kinds of new ways to measure who has the
strongest networks and consulting services to help companies leverage their

There are certainly leadership implications to this
relatively new field. For example, according to CCL, “5% of people in your
organization hold 30% of the relationships. Even fewer hold the ties that
bridge organizational roles and functions. And most of your relationship
“brokers” aren’t considered formal “leadership”.

Network analysis may change the way we assess leadership
potential, lead change, recruit and retain, innovate, and how we collaborate to
achieve results.

Big idea #4:
Nonprofit leadership development.

Research indicates that 3 out of 4 nonprofit executive leaders
will retire in the next six years, leaving a significant leadership deficit. A
majority of board leaders are also expected to retire in the near future.

Unfortunately, due to tight funding and barebones staffing,
the non-profit sector has not invested in leadership development. According to
CCL’s Karen Dyer, Director of CCL’s Education and Nonprofit sector, “The sector
is starting to see the implications of this neglect. We have a capacity gap
that will require significant investments and new approaches to attract keep
and grow effective, creative nonprofit leaders.”

The nonprofit sector includes human services, hospitals,
education, arts, environment and civic engagement. Also under the nonprofit umbrella
are entities such as testamentary trusts, fraternal groups, recreational
leagues, trade associations and foundations.

We’re ALL going to be affected by this leadership crisis if
we don’t start doing something about it today.

American Express and CCL have a model that’s working. The
American Express Leadership Academy has helped more than 300 emerging leaders
in not-for-profit organizations build the skills needed to run a successful
organization through a weeklong program, funded by American Express.

I like the model and encourage more companies and
individuals to step up to the challenge.

Big idea #5: Measure
the impact of coaching.

Coaching is a $2 billion dollar business and growing. Yes,
due to a lack of metrics, limited research to quantify impact, and inconsistent
coaching standards, it’s difficult for businesses to evaluate the results of
executive coaching. They tend to rely on a leap of faith that it’s working, and
depend on word of mouth referrals when selecting a coach.

Of the estimated 400 coach training organizations that offer
education and certification, none of them formally evaluate their coaches after
they have been certified.

CCL’s answer to this challenge is a new product designed to measure
coaching effectiveness, the Coaching Evaluation Assessment, or CEA.

Frankly, this part of the CCL report smacks of a bit of self-serving
product marketing, but they make a good point. Then again, you could say the
same thing (a lack of measurement and standards) about the corporate training
industry and higher education, and no one has seemed to figure those out. Well,
some have, but few have actually chosen to do anything about it.

So what are your reactions to these “big ideas”? What would
you add to the list?