What It Takes to Cultivate Leaders

Interested in expanding leadership development opportunities within your organization? A new survey of HR professionals demonstrates why you need the support of the C-suite to make it happen.

A recent Associations Now article on leadership development programs posited that leaders are made, not born.

Hardly anyone is naturally equipped to be a good leader, said Scott Brunner, CAE, executive vice president of the Georgia Pharmacy Association and architect of several leadership development programs. “Leadership is basically behaviors, and if you do the things that leaders do, there’s a better chance that you’ll be successful,” he added.

Although Brunner’s programs focus on volunteer leadership development specifically among members aspiring to serve on boards of directors, Brunner’s remark applies more widely.

A lot of companies in the for-profit world see the value in training leaders. Of the $70 billion U.S. companies spent on corporate training in 2013—a 15 percent increase from the year before—the largest share went toward leadership development, according to The Corporate Learning Factbook 2014.

Despite such investment, many organizations are struggling with leadership development. For example, a recent study [PDF] from professional services firm Deloitte found that a majority of C-level execs don’t believe their direct reports have the skills to assume greater leadership roles within their organizations, largely stemming from lack of access to leadership training.

This finding is further supported by another recent survey that found nine out of 10 human resources professionals are not happy with the amount of training their company’s managers and supervisors are receiving.

Why aren’t these employees getting the training they need? The largest impediment, according to the Rapid Learning Institute’s survey of 240 HR professionals, is an organization’s lack of commitment to leadership development.

For example, about a third of respondents said their organizations do not provide adequate training resources, while 28 percent reported managers and supervisors don’t have the time to attend more training, and 12 percent reported that HR does not have the power to mandate training and that training is not supported by the company’s leadership.

“The survey’s responses suggest a widespread lack of commitment to developing current and future leaders,” Rick Mitchell, an editor at Rapid Learning Institute, wrote on the company’s blog. “When an organization prioritizes training, they invest the required resources to make it happen and make it effective. They mandate training and establish consequences for when employees don’t participate. And they support employee development openly, from the C-suite on down.”

Brunner echoed this point in advice he shared for associations interested in creating their own leadership development programs.

“The organization has to make a commitment to invest in the program,” Brunner told AN. “Yeah you’re going to have these students, these future leaders, making an investment in the program via tuition, but in almost every instance, in terms of the association’s investment in the program, it’s going to cost the association more than they’re going to bring in in tuition.”

And while that commitment to leadership development may not pay out huge monetary benefits, it will most likely create benefits via the skills and confidence newly trained leaders reinvest in your organization.

“The idea of the leadership programs that I’ve been a part of is, ‘Let’s equip these people upfront to at least understand the role and understand the behaviors that typify good leadership,’ ” Brunner told AN. “And if we make that investment in them, then there’s a good chance that it will pay off for better outcomes for the organization.”

Has your association had success with leadership development? Let us know how in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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