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Interesting Trends in Leadership Development Published: Sunday, July 1, 2012 12:01 am By: Rafael Ríos, Executive Vice President

Twenty five years ago organizations looked to MBA programs to provide the state of the art body of business knowledge and skills for the development of leaders.  MBA programs where riding a sort of bubble with exponential growth. Then came the 90’s  and the business world  changed.  And so did the expectations of the business world relating to what MBA programs should produce. The bubble burst, and organizations  began to question if there MBA programs  evolved with the new reality.

Today these programs are evolving and are presenting curricula focused on operating in a global economy.  These schools provide graduates with global perspectives and leadership skills that facilitate synchronization of organizational realities with cultural and economic challenges.  These schools are focusing on the roles and responsibilities of business and business leaders in particular, the ethical quandaries that business leaders face.

In the 90’s organizations began developing their own state of the art executive development programs that were tailor made to the realities that the organization was facing. These corporate universities stimulated the imagination of business executives and challenged paradigms regarding management, leadership, innovation and transformation. These school were organized to have a direct and acknowledged impact on the business performance of the organization. They acted as a hub for knowledge collection and dissemination. These Corporate universities integrated organization development, change management, training, career and leadership development and knowledge management. These schools pushed individuals and the organization into thinking and acting outside of established or familiar patterns of learning—whether in what they learn or in how they learn it.

On the other hand most development practitioners are true believers in the "70/20/10" philosophy of learning (that 70% of learning occurs on the job, 20% through mentoring, and 10% in a traditional classroom setting) but readily admit that the lion's share of their time and budget remain focused on traditional training programs — and have not yet "cracked the code" on how to best provide high-impact support for the 70% of experiential, day-in-day-out learning. There is a rich opportunity for innovation in improving experiential development.

Today organizations are asking how to provide the experiences that can provide our future leaders with the skills and knowledge necessary to  meet head on the  ever changing challenges  of  21st century.  Matthew Breitfelder and Daisy Wademan suggest organizations have the opportunity to create low stakes, high-impact experiential opportunities by takeing leadership training out of the classroom and much further afield than ever before.

Some organizations are radically changing the traditional training-heavy Corporate University model by combining class room training, mentoring   and experiential learning opportunities focusing assignments on social service community based projects. These organizations select rising stars, and assigns them full time for three to six months to local projects or ship them overseas to perform "community-driven economic development projects." The benefits of these projects are immediate, multiple, and clear: Talent is developed in a better, faster, and cheaper way. Individual s develop experiences working in a radically different business context and in a hands on way.

Society benefits from these assignments as local non-profits get the expertise of highly skilled workers they could never afford to hire. Corporate reputation increases locally; the company is seen as one that cares about that community's businesses, infrastructure and people, and builds its credibility for future business opportunities. These development concepts have other advantages, employee retention and engagement increases as workers take pride in their company's investment in themselves and in society at large. These experience sensitize the executives to the reality and challenges our society is facing

Assigning future leaders to these experiential learning opportunities is more than a trend. It is rapidly becoming a way of doing business and a powerful driver of 21st century leadership development.  In the next several years these development opportunities will become standard practice in corporate leadership programs.

We believe that by combining classroom training with practical experiential learning  opportunities  we will prepare the leaders for the 21st century . The future of business will require leaders who can think not only strategically about the advantage of the firm but also about how other social sectors play a part in business aims. These new leaders will have concern for public purpose — for the effects of their activities on the well-being of society as a whole, as a contribution to overall economic prosperity.

Copyright 2012 QBS, Inc.

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