by Don Beeman

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Organizations prosper when they have learning-agile leaders. These are people who, in the words of CCL president, John Ryan, “thrive in new and difficult situations – clear thinkers who … like to learn and can quickly apply new knowledge and, most importantly and not surprisingly, who deliver results, even in new situations.”

Unfortunately, many organizations do not have enough learning agility at the top and instead face significant challenges at the leadership levels. In one way or another, their leaders are not managing as effectively as they should during these demanding times, and there are significant ripple effects on employee engagement, productivity, and bottom-line business results. So, organizations must raise the bar and commit to a leadership development strategy more seriously than they ever have before.

In doing so, there are some essential conditions for success in the design of a program:

  • The program should be thought of as an integrated experience, not an event.
  • The program should include complementary development components.
  • Senior leadership needs to own (and participate in) the program.
  • The selection criteria and process should ensure that strong leadership candidates are identified. The program should be regarded as selective.
  • Participants need to be highly committed.
  • Participants should be able to develop a tightly networked cohort.

With these design principles in mind, we will present an integrated leadership development model created by the St. Charles Consulting Group that has nine different dimensions of potential activity. And, with that context in place, we will share a variety of success stories, looking first at three companies on the West Coast – Cypress Semiconductor, Autodesk, and Synaptics – and some of the creative things that they have done in the areas of program design, content selection, candidate assessment, and impact evaluation.

Then we will take a deeper dive into work that has been done at Grant Thornton, a professional services firm with headquarters here in Chicago. For several years, Grant Thornton has sponsored a program it calls LEADS – for leadership development “from campus to partner.” Through the LEADS initiative, Grant Thornton University delivers leadership development programs at nationally sponsored conferences and promotes leadership skill development at local office learning sessions. Web-based leadership development courses and other online performance and learning resources reinforce these programs.

More recently, advanced work has created a partner development framework that is responsible for enhancing capabilities at Grant Thornton’s senior leadership levels. Two hallmark programs – the Partner Executive Program and the Partner Leadership Program – will be featured. These were instrumental in Grant Thornton’s being selected as a 2009 ASTD BEST award recipient.

Join us for some learning-edge thoughts on the importance of making a rock-solid commitment to learning agility and long-term investment in leadership development. In the words of author Jim Collins, “Creating something exceptional is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice.”

Don Beeman
Don Beeman
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