“The reality is, leaders are not developed in schools”

Video Blog: Debunking the Superman Myth

Superman Myth

Posted by William Pelster on July 25, 2013

“The reality is, leaders are not developed in schools” It’s also reality that leadership — finding it, cultivating it, keeping it — consistently ranks as a Top 3 priority for CEOs in survey after survey, whether conducted by Deloitte or other entities. What has changed, though, is the notion of what effective leadership looks like. We’ve moved beyond the myth of the “perfect” leader to realize that leadership looks different and requires different skill sets depending on the situation and environment — leading a team at corporate is not the same as leading a team in the field in Beijing or Bangalore. Business has grown too complex and multidimensional to expect one person to have the necessary skills to excel in any situation. Instead, leadership today is about building a bench of leaders with varied skills that are in tune with the organization’s priorities and goals. That kind of development takes time and the commitment to provide leaders with varied, authentic experiences that challenge them to solve problems in the real-world, rather than in a classroom. Organizations that make it part of their business model to develop and redevelop their leaders will be the ones that can not only attract and retain valuable leadership talent, but also deploy it to their advantage.

Listen in now with HR Times and Bill Pelster as he discusses the 2013 Human Capital Trend: Debunking the Superman Myth.


What’s driving the Human Capital Debunking trend?

Every time we take a look at either an internal Deloitte survey or any surveys that are done of CEOs by other agencies or entities, leadership is always the first, second, or third top priority out there, and in many cases, it is the number one priority for leaders and it is leadership beyond just the C-suite, it is leadership around succession, it is leadership around all levels in the organization having the right people in the right spot at all levels in organization, and then having leaders available to actually react to what is happening in the marketplace or to execute your business strategy. So when we talk about thinking through a trend, this leadership one just continues to be a top priority for many of our executives out there

The perfect leader doesn’t exist.

The idea that there is one definition of leadership is also part of the myth that is out there and the, you may need a leader who is actually putting out a fire or handling a severe crisis inside of an organization. The reality is a leader in a mature market is different than perhaps a leader in a developing market. Also, leadership for different opportunities and style. In some cases, you may need inspirational leadership.

You’re not going to find one individual that has all these different skills packaged and bundled in them. So the idea is look at what you need potentially as an organization and make sure that your leadership bench gives you the strategic flexibility so that you can react and move into markets that you see fit and also react to any changes in the marketplace so that you have the right leaders in place.

How to develop a leadership bench

We have found time and time again, it is about harvesting experiences that are available to leaders and organizations that do that very systematically are able to develop a bench of leaders. Other organizations choose to outsource this and send people to either training courses or schools. The reality is, leaders are not developed in schools. Leaders are developed through the experiences of actually solving real-life problems and so organizations who really understand this really focus on harvesting those experiences and making sure that they align up against that leadership bench.

Not a one-and-done

This is not something you can do in one quarter or one year and check the box and say this is done. This is a journey that goes on forever inside the organization. You constantly have to develop and redevelop your leaders. You constantly have to replenish the bench and so if you are looking at this as a short-term program and then moving onto the next issue, you are not going to solve fundamentally your leadership issues. If you embrace this as something just critical that you have to do as an organization and it is going to be part of your business model going forward, then you really have that longer-term opportunity for success and really developing that bench of leaders and being known as an organization that really develops leaders in the marketplace.

Bill Pester William Pelster (Bill), Principal, Deloitte Services LP, has over 20 years of industry and consulting experience. In his previous role as Managing Principal of Talent Development, Bill was responsible for the talent development experience of Deloitte’s professionals to include learning, assignments and career-life fit.

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