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An integrated model and approach for the design of effective leadership development programs.

Leadership development - it's time we did it better!

The last few years has seen an increasing interest in leadership development. This has come about for a few reasons. First because of the rapid change in business, technology, global communication and in human values. The world and business is changing fast and when change occurs, leadership is needed. Second, our society has lost confidence in the ability of science and technology to solve problems. Science and technology rather than being able to solve our problems are seen the cause of many of them, such as worker alienation, pollution and unemployment. Management has associated this scientific, technological approach to running organisations with its emphasis on accounting, finance, information sciences, systems theory and marketing. As a result, a more human perspective such as leadership seems to be needed. Finally major studies like the Enterprising Nation Report (Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management Skills, 1995) and academic research like that of Kotter (1990) has shown that there is a great need for leadership in organisations. The phrase" over managed and underled" seems to provide the best summary of the reason for the growing interest in leadership.

The last five years has seen a great outpouring of books and programs on leadership and how leadership can be developed. The swing from" management development" to" leadership development" in the title of organisational programs represents this shift. While some of the changes to leadership development have been merely cosmetic there have been some definite shifts in the content and style of these programs.

According to Kotter (1990), leadership involves the creation of a vision and strategic direction for the organisation, the communication of that vision to the people and customers of the organisation and also involves inspiring, motivating and aligning people and the organisation to achieve this vision.

There is a wide variety of approaches to leadership development. Each organisation, human resource professional, academic and consultant has their own preferred approach to leadership development. There has been little research to demonstrate which approaches are more effective (Conger, 1992). There has been, however, a set of activities and learning methods that have been fairly successful over the last 40 years in management and leadership development programs. There is a need therefore to integrate and clarify these various approaches and to give senior managers and human resource professionals a framework which they can use to construct new leadership development programs, evaluate their current offerings and improve or modify existing programs. The purpose of this article therefore is to present an integrated model for the planning of leadership development. This will include a description of the various teaching approaches and activities and how they contribute to leadership development under three major tracks that are common in leadership development.

Leadership development planning model: an integrated approach

A comprehensive seven stage model that can be used to plan leadership development is put forward in Figure 1. This model has been based on the work of Vicere (1997).

The Vicere model has been modified so that evaluation and assessment are two separate steps instead of in-between each of the steps. This has been done so that they are given more thorough attention. The Vicere model requires an evaluation after each step. Actual experience shows this is difficult for organisations to carry out due to time and expense. Having two steps of thorough and proper evaluation is more likely for many organisations.

1. Articulate strategic imperatives

This first step involves determining and defining the key strategic objectives that are vital to the survival, success and growth of the organisation. These are similar to the "strategic elephants" described by Argenti (1989), those key issues or problems that the organisation must deal with in the next two to three years if it is to survive and prosper. They include the vision and strategy of the organisation and the external and internal factors that drive the decisions of the organisation (e.g. changing market share, return on capital, lack of human resource skills in a particular area, etc.).

One of the biggest criticisms of many management development programs is that they do not contribute to the business objectives of the organisation. They may develop managerial skills but they do not substantially contribute to business success. It is often incorrectly assumed that if managers gain a skill they will use it to improve the business.

It is important for strategic issues to be clarified and agreed on prior to the design of the leadership development program since they should determine the objectives of the program as well as the key competencies that need to be developed in the participants. Recent leadership development programs at PepsiCo, General Electric and Allied Chemical (Linkage, 1997) have involved a clarification of the critical business issues and designed leadership programs around the need to achieve outcomes related to these. The following questionnaire can be used to help senior executives and human resource professionals determine these key issues and leadership competencies:

Strategic issues and leadership competencies vital to the organisation

1 What are the major issues, factors, trends that are occurring in the external and internal environment of your organisation?

2 What are the most important two external issues and the two most important internal issues that relate to the survival, success and/or growth of your organisation? Describe why each of these is important in terms of what will happen to the organisation if these issues are not properly responded to over the next two to three years.

3 In order to effectively deal with these issues what are the major areas of knowledge, competencies and skills your managers will need to have (which they currently don't have) over the next two to three years?

4 What are the things that will need to happen within the organisation in terms of human resource practices, rewards, organisational systems (e.g. strategic planning, reporting mechanisms, etc.) and reinforcement to ensure these things will happen after the completion of the leadership development program?

5 What role and specific actions (e.g. coaching, facilitating, teaching, etc.) are you and the senior managers willing to undertake during and after the leadership development program to ensure these strategic changes and leadership competencies are carried out?

2. Set objectives for development

The next step is to set the main purpose and objectives of the leadership development program, as well as the specific knowledge and skills that should be developed by the completion of the program. The experience, level, function, previous management education, current challenges faced and demographic background of the potential participants needs to be considered when setting the objectives so that the program is made relevant to the participant as well as the organisation. For example, middle level managers may need specific skills in outsourcing or contract management because a strategic objective of cost reduction has led to this activity being implemented at the department level. This stage requires precise plays are incorporated which demonstrate good and poor emotional intelligence. Other ideas and concepts such as the learning organisation, internet for business, theories of change management, and international social and market trends can be important knowledge components in a program.

Action learning, testing behaviors and ideas in action

A powerful component of a leadership development is experiential or action learning. This involves hands on, practical exercises or activities where participants have to solve problems, perform tasks or achieve results, often within a certain time frame. These activities may take the form of a simulation that is very similar to normal work activities (e.g. dealing with a difficult employee) or may look unrelated to the workplace (e.g. crash landing in the desert) but then are related back to workplace situations. The concepts, skills and relevance of the exercise are often discussed after the exercise and arise out of the direct experience of the participants rather than an intellectual concept given in a previous lecture. The participant has to transfer their experience through their own intellectual processes. Lessons frequently stay with participants for years because of the vivid actual reality and emotions that they experience during this type of learning. It has been possible for a group of managers, for example, over the course of a few days involving several experiential exercises to develop their own theory and guidelines for team dynamics and team building. These results can be as comprehensive as many text books on group behavior.

Action learning is a more extended version of this approach in that teams are organised to complete a workplace project over the course of several months. The project is used as a basis to learn the concepts and skills taught in the program. The team helps each member and the total group learn as the project proceeds. General Electric has shifted almost entirely to an action learning emphasis in their Executive Development and Business Management Development courses (Mercer, 1997).

Improve abilities, skills and relationships

It is important for participants to experience some improvement in their skills and abilities as a leader over the course of the program. They should be able to do something that they couldn't do before they spent their time in a leadership program. This can also include skills or understanding they can bring into their personal and family life. A number of the concepts that are covered in leadership courses, such as active listening or conflict resolution, are directly transferable to home life. They are ideal places to practice these skills as well, so that they become a more permanent part of a manager's total behaviors.

The development of skills is important not only from a personal point of view but managers also want to see that what they learned can directly contribute to the success of the organisation. People like to feel that they have obtained skills and knowledge which will make them a better manager in the organisation.

Observing models of leadership

A great deal of learning occurs through transference - from one human being watching another. The leader of the program, the presenters, the senior executives who participate in sessions, all represent models of behavior, intelligence and interpersonal skill for the participants. How a presenter delivers information, structures the learning experience, answers challenging questions, introduces humour and treats participants, represents their total philosophy on life and leadership. The person who stands in front of a group of experienced and intelligent managers with something to teach is putting themself in a very exposed position. Participants have the opportunity to examine them closely since they are in a receptive, observing role for most of the time. They pass judgments quickly and can learn important lessons, consciously and unconsciously, about leadership from the people that are brought before them. The HR staff, internal managers and outside faculty need to represent models of leadership for managers to emulate.

Participate in the changing direction and new culture of the business

This is a similar area to the strategic imperatives in the Vicere model described earlier, but from a different perspective. At the individual level, managers have a need to know their relationship to the larger picture and how their world is being shaped by the unknown forces beyond their own department. It is important for an individual to know the strategic issues and direction of the firm and how they can contribute to this. Information about the status and future direction of the firm gives the participant some idea of their career and future in the organisation. Hearing a chief executive describe his or her views that outsourcing some of the human resource functions could have merit would probably trigger the beginning of a job search for the HR managers who attended the leadership program. On the other hand, the new ventures manager who hears that the organisation is hoping for 20 percent growth in international markets over the next three years might feel that they are central to the organisation's strategic initiatives and get an idea on how important their section's activities are to the overall success of the firm. Conger (1997), Tichy and Devanna (1986) and Vicere (1997) - well known experts in the leadership development field - have indicated the importance of designing leadership development programs that contribute directly to the strategic objectives of the firm, and which help build the new type of culture suitable for this direction.

Global focus

Leadership development programs are rapidly moving to include substantial components involving international markets, world economic trends and a focus on particular regions such as the Asia Pacific rim. Leaders are being exposed to how the world is becoming interdependent and the need to keep up-to-date with international trends that are vital to success of the business. Levi Strauss & Co. uses overseas placement as a definite step in career development for their managers and international projects as part of their leadership development program to give their managers this global focus (Schmidt, 1997). The use of the Internet to obtain information and to market products and services worldwide is a current topic that leaders are exposed to in many leadership development programs. "Think globally, act locally!" is a common message recommended to many leaders.

Link up with other people relevant to your work

Another element that is rated as one of the major benefits in attending a leadership development program is meeting and building a relationship with other participants. The time spent with other managers discussing similar issues, problems and concerns builds a bond that can be called on again and again in dealing with everyday problems. Participants get to know other members of the organisation, share experience of problems, effective actions and strategies on how to manage within the organisation.

Tools, methods and processes for developing leaders

The design of a leadership development program involves using different methods, tools and processes to enhance the learning experience. This section describes the more widely used methods and processes of current leadership programs.

Contributing to the strategic business direction


In recent years, managerial competencies and the accreditation of programs to develop competencies have been of considerable interest. Australia Post's "Team Leader Program" and the Executive Leadership Development Program in Western Australia have been accredited as providing key leadership competencies. There is a considerable amount of information about which competencies are most required of leaders and managers (Wallace and Hunt, 1996). In Australia, the Front Line Management initiative is an attempt to standardise key competencies all supervisors will have.

While there are important and difficult questions which need to be considered, the competency approach has several useful benefits It requires presenters and program written and how it would have compared to the respondents' recommendations.

Strategic planning sessions and future searches

A number of organisations are now bringing their strategic planning and leadership development processes closer together. Shell, GE and PepsiCo are gathering input and making decisions about their strategic direction for the future in the Leadership Program (Linkage, 1997). This often includes a talk by the CEO on future directions, use of SWOT and force field analysis and projects around the objectives set. Burswood Resort Casino has adopted this approach in their leadership program which has resulted in a great deal of participation in the leadership program by the CEO and senior management team.

Building leadership, team and interpersonal skills

Project work

Teams or individuals can set their own or be given work projects to implement over the course of the program. These are often established in co-operation with the next level of management and are designed to relate to the objectives of the course and the skills to be developed. While projects can be difficult to manage and some may have a moderate chance of failure for a number of reasons, they can lead to substantial learning and benefit to the organisation.

Problem-solving team exercises

This involves team problem-solving situations sometimes in an outdoor environment. Simulations of actual company problems or set simulations like the peg game, tower power or computer simulations are used.

Leadership models

The use of situational and transformational models exposes participants to the current theories, research and ideas about effective leadership which helps sharpen and deepen managers' understanding of leadership. Questionnaires, case studies and the use of simulation board games have been used to improve understanding and skills in leadership. The Blanchard Situational Leadership II Model with supporting materials and, more recently, the Transformational Leadership Framework developed by Tichy and Devanna (1986) are probably the more frequently used approaches. The Competing Values Framework developed by Quinn et al. (1996) has been modified by the author to provide an integrated model of leadership and management skills and is the basis of the 360 degree profile mentioned earlier.

Role plays

Typical situations such as dealing with a difficult staff member or customer, conducting performance reviews or managing conflict can be used for live role plays in which specific skills can be demonstrated or taught. Situations can be written ahead of time or developed on the spot by participants.

Interpersonal skills

A common and important component of many leadership development programs is interpersonal skills. This can include listening skills, conflict resolution, motivation, communication facilitation, negotiation skills and many others. Different trainers cover different aspects even within the same topic. For example, one person may teach transaction analysis in communication skills while another may use active listening techniques.

Development center

This is a process where individuals participate in various activities over one to three days while trained observers rate them on various leadership and team skills. Each individual then gets an individual report and a development plan with specific recommendations for their development. Department of Productivity and Labour Relations (DOPLAR) in Western Australia conducted an entire leadership development program around the use of the development center and follow-up coaching. These centers are often used as a main focus for leadership development (Ballantyne and Povah, 1995).


360 degree feedback process

This has been widely used in recent years in leadership development programs (Conger, 1992). It involves participants completing a self-assessment of the key skills and competencies of leadership. Five other people, including the participant's manager, one or two peers and several subordinates also complete an evaluation of the person's skills. These are compiled into a summary report for the person which includes a comparison of their self-ratings with the others. This report can be used to focus on specific skills that need developing. The is often combined with a one-on-one interview with a psychologist or HR professional to help the person interpret the report. The 360 degree profile has been used by the Executive Development program in Western Australia, the Water Corporation, Australia Post, the Centre for Creative Leadership, General Electric and many other organisations. It is often rated as the most useful and powerful element of the leadership development process.


Recently coaching for leaders has become a major aspect of leadership development. This can be one-on-one through the use of external coaches who work with either a focus on interpersonal, goal-setting or more managerial skills such as budgeting, use of computer technology or marketing. As mentioned above, the Department of Productivity and Labour Relations in Western Australia included coaching as a major component of its leadership development program. A manager may have a team of coaches each focusing on one aspect of the manager's competency need for a time. In some organisations, coaches work with a team and team leader, during team meetings or in more informal ways with each of the team members.

Group feedback

Over a four-hour period, team members give each person feedback on what they are doing well and what each team member can improve on. This is facilitated by an outside consultant skilled in this process. Each member of the team takes a turn to receive specific feedback and to discuss it fully. This process can be an excellent way for team members to develop each other because it is very personal, constructive and deals with the key issues each person feels.

Health appraisals

Another way to help managers develop is to include a health appraisal in the leadership development program. This often includes fitness testing, blood chemistry measures (cholesterol, HDL, LDL, etc.), and weight. This can provide individuals with an important "wake up call" about their health and work-home life balance. Individual counselling sessions can be an important turning point in terms of health and stress in several participants' lives because of the information they receive about the state of their health and the illness it will lead to if they continue this behavior.

Personality questionnaires

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and other measures of personality (e.g. internal external locus of control, self-monitoring, Type A versus Type B, etc.) can help participants gain a deeper self-understanding if credible instruments are used and are conducted by professionals who are accredited to use these instruments.

Learning journals

Another way to enhance leadership development is to have participants write down observations and evaluation of the learning process. Learning journals are a structured way to help managers reflect on the main things they have learned and to translate these into actions in their own workplace. The Master's Degree in Leadership and Management, Australia Post, Human Services and Health, and the Public Sector Executive Development program have used learning journals throughout the program.

On-the-job and follow-up

In order to gain full value from a leadership program there has to be transference and follow-up to ensure the leadership skills are being utilized in the job. This could take the form of special assignments or a resurvey of the 360 instrument to see if skills have improved. In order to do this well some thought needs to be given to the most effective and efficient ways to gather useful information without taking too much in time or resources. This might involve tests of knowledge, activities that have to be completed to a certain standard or on-the-job activities that are assessed by the person's peers or by independent outside experts who observe and indicate the level of proficiency.

The combined activities of defining precisely the competencies and the follow-up methods of helping the person use these competencies in their workplace ensures a greater amount of skills are effectively used as a result of the program.

Self-business development - an integrated approach

In summary, three major elements of effective leadership development involve:

1 the self-development of leaders;

2 improving their ability to contribute to the teams they lead; and

3 skills which help them contribute to the business and strategic change.

Individual leaders respond best when they learn about themselves, learn skills that help them better lead their team and learn how to make a substantial contribution to the organisation's business success. Kur and Bunning (1996) have recognised similar themes in designing a three track leadership development program which includes a business track, leadership track and personal development track.

It is important therefore for leadership development programs to have all of these elements to some degree:

1 contributing to improved business performance;

2 enhancing leadership and team skills; and

3 based on enhancing self-development and self-worth.

Leadership development has been undergoing a rapid learning curve. Rapidly changing business competition, new technology and new concepts have resulted in new approaches to leadership development. Use of 360 degree feedback, including a global focus, computer simulations, outdoor learning, personality questionnaires, real world projects and many other tools is possible in a leadership program. There has been a tendency to use a number of these because of what the HR department or the outside consultant are familiar with or prefer. The seven stage model described in this paper provides an overall guide to the design of leadership development programs. The tools and activities described in this paper can then be used to provide the specific objectives which have been set. The combination of the comprehensive Leadership Development Model, the elements of an effective leadership experience and the activities which are effective in developing long-term leadership competencies which have been described in this paper can provide a thorough approach to leadership development.


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Author:Cacioppe, Ron
Publication:Leadership & Organization Development Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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