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Harv Bus Rev. 2005 Oct;83(10):62-70, 155.

Growing talent as if your business depended on it.

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  • 1Bench Strength Advisors, New York, NY, USA.


Traditionally, corporate boards have left leadership planning and development very much up to their CEOs and human resources departments-primarily because they don't perceive that a lack of leadership development in their companies poses the same kind of threat that accounting blunders or missed earnings do. That's a shortsighted view, the authors argue. Companies whose boards and senior executives fail to prioritize succession planning and leadership development end up experiencing a steady attrition in talent and becoming extremely vulnerable when they have to cope with inevitable upheavals- integrating an acquired company with a different operating style and culture, for instance, or reexamining basic operating assumptions when a competitor with a leaner cost structure emerges. Firms that haven't focused on their systems for building their bench strength will probably make wrong decisions in these situations. In this article, the authors explain what makes a successful leadership development program, based on their research over the past few years with companies in a range of industries. They describe how several forward-thinking companies (Tyson Foods, Starbucks, and Mellon Financial, in particular) are implementing smart, integrated, talent development initiatives. A leadership development program should not comprise stand-alone, ad hoc activities coordinated by the human resources department, the authors say. A company's leadership development processes should align with strategic priorities. From the board of directors on down, senior executives should be deeply involved in finding and growing talent, and line managers should be evaluated and promoted expressly for their contributions to the organization-wide effort. HR should be allowed to create development tools and facilitate their use, but the business units should take responsibility for development activities, and the board should ultimately oversee the whole system.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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