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Competent program on leadership competencies.

The Extraordinary Leader, video, 2004, 25 min., VisionPoint Productions (800-300-8880,, $795 VHS, $995 DVD. Facilitator guide, reproducible participant materials, reproducible self-study workbook, PowerPoint presentation available for download, industry versions of case study available for download.

After eight years of research and experience in leadership development, I have found that an effective program includes five elements: behavioral competencies, a tool for assessing the leader's current competency level, a development plan, a link to business results, and a solid coaching follow-through process.

The Extraordinary Leader provides the first three elements. The video, the materials for a two-day program, and the self-study guide each list 16 competencies and provide a self-assessment and a development plan. The materials are based on research gathered by John H. Zenger and Joseph Folkman in their book, The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers in Great Leaders.


The content for the workshop and video is what makes this program worth the money. The video presents five key insights from Zenger and Folkman's research. Their research findings set this program apart from others. The insights include:

1. It's not about going from bad to good. It's about going from good to great.

2. Focus on building strengths, not fixing weaknesses.

3. There are five clusters of strengths that really matter.

4. Combinations of strengths produce exponential results.

5. The fastest way to becoming extraordinary isn't always a straight line.

The video includes a female host and John "Jack" H. Zenger. Because the video is simply "talking heads," conveying information, the program designers have done a good job of varying the background settings. For example, when Zenger uses diving as an analogy for how small changes the diver makes can make a big difference in terms of the scores he or she receives, he is filmed in front of a competitive diving pool. The teaching point is that leaders can make small changes in their approach that have a large impact.

According to the host, the research from Zenger and Folkman is "solid, quantitative, research from two of the most prominent thought leaders on leadership development. Joe and Jack conducted an exhaustive, scientific analysis of the performance of over 25,000 real-world leaders from across the country and around the world."

Personally, I have great respect for Zenger's previous work in leadership development. He designed several programs that I purchased from his former company, Zenger-Miller. Recently, I gathered information for the work I do with my own clients from his book Results-Based Leadership published in 1999.

In sharing insight number three, the video designers visually represent the five clusters of strengths (competencies) onscreen with the poles of a tent. The clusters include:

* Character

* Personal Capability

* Results

* Interpersonal Skills

* Leading Change

The tent poles represent that the clusters need to be developed in combination rather than one at a time. This is important because many leaders already have strength in one area, and research indicates that strength in a single area can actually decrease a leader's effectiveness. This concept flows easily into insight number four, where Zenger and Folkman have found combinations of strengths important in terms of how a leader is perceived. For example, imagine a leader had strong interpersonal skills, but she didn't have good listening skills. She would be perceived as being phony. Zenger explains that by noticing the strength of strong interpersonal skills, the leader can look at and improve the combination strength and exponentially improve results.

In addition to the materials included in the package, there are PowerPoint slides on the publisher's website. The self-study guide offers an assessment that the learner can take to determine areas for development. There is also a version to give to others to complete so the learners can gather another perspective in addition to their own. A 15-step development plan included in the participant workbook and the self-study guide extends the learning from an event to a process. Extending learning beyond the classroom is an important aspect of leadership development that I look for when selecting materials.


The facilitator guide is missing two vital pieces of an effective leadership development program. It has no plan for linking the learning to business results or for coaching as a follow-up to the development planning activity. Developing leaders is unique from other types of learning because people are changing behaviors that are more than likely unconscious. This creates the need for a plan that identifies specific business results as a goal to work toward and coaching to help leaders implement the development plan. An experienced facilitator will know to do that.

However, the instructional value of this program suffers in my ranking because one of the objectives listed is to "apply strength and behaviors that demonstrate leadership effectiveness in workplace situations." I think it is unlikely that facilitators with less experience in implementing effective leadership development will be able to achieve that objective without specific direction.


Even though the program is missing two elements of a comprehensive leadership development program. The Extraordinary Leader provides very good value for the money. Many companies spend a lot of time and money developing competencies before they begin a leadership development program. Purchasing this set of materials is an opportunity to utilize reliable information about competencies and a development plan. This will save the organization time and money on development. Instead of investing resources in creating competencies, companies could invest the money for this program and have access to the research already done by Zenger and Folkman. Then, with the money the company saves, they can invest it in a plan for coaching follow-up that links the learning to the organization's business results. As I said earlier, facilitators of this program will need to be experienced because information about how to link learning to business results and implement coaching to support the transfer of learning is missing from the facilitator guide.
The Extraordinary Leader star rating


Holds viewer interest 3
Acting/Presenting 3
Diversity 2
Production quality 2.5
Value of content 3.5
Instructional value 2
Value for the money 3.5
Overall rating 3
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Article Details
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Author:Bryce, Deanne
Publication:Training Media Review
Article Type:Video Recording Review
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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