A Key to Long-Term Business Performance

By Mitch Wienick, President, Kelleher Associates, LLC

Organizations that invest in executive leadership development have consistently performed better over the long term than those that don’t.

Here are five executive leadership development strategies designed to build long-term success for your business:

1. Give potential leaders the opportunity to experiment and take risks that generate small wins and experiential learning.

The common thread among some of the most successful companies, from Google to Cisco to P&G, is that they expect executive leaders to be innovators. Innovation comes from experimentation and calculated risk-taking. Executives must step out of their comfort zone and into a learning zone where there is uncertainty and risk. It’s in this space where an executive can peel back the layers of a challenge and creatively stretch himself or herself while confidently moving through the fear of possible failure and into a zone of competence and success.

2. Encourage potential executive leaders to search for opportunities, seize the initiative, and look beyond the enterprise for innovative ways to improve.

Think of executive leadership development as an inverse pyramid. Everyone, not just senior executives, has the potential to demonstrate leadership competencies, and each individual is given the opportunity (and the clear responsibility) to understand the business, pursue initiatives that strengthen the business, and make decisions that support company strategies and goals.

3. Create opportunities for potential leaders to foster cross-functional relationships and build trust.

Although cross-functional relationships can be challenging and complex, managing them well is essential to high-performance companies. If designed to be durable and productive, they have the ability to enable exceptionally positive outcomes for the business. Successful employees work to build better, trusting cross-functional relationships with their peers and counterparts in collaborative efforts that produce impactful results and put “points on the scoreboard”.

4. Identify specific competencies in potential leaders that need development and provide resources for learning and confidence-building.

A mistake many companies make is not further enhancing the unique strengths of their most promising employees. By carefully identifying and building upon the already evident leadership competencies of high potential executive leaders within your company, you have the opportunity to hone their capabilities to a fine edge as they continue to assume greater responsibility and generate greater productivity and growth for your company.

5. Engage coaches, both inside and outside of the organization, to work with these potential and emerging leaders.

Executive coaching helps both established and emerging executives understand the benefits of change and the consequences of failing to professionally learn and grow. The best executive leadership programs create real-time learning situations where executives are able to practice the new skills and behaviors they have recently acquired and are primed to apply.

Developing executive leaders is the “new normal” for long-term business success. Executive development should be thought of as a strategic effort to continuously foster a leadership-driven foundation that enables such success.