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The Business Case for Leadership Development

The Business Case for Leadership Development

Dan McCarthy | Great Leadership

October 07, 2010

If you happen to work for a great company, then chances are you won’t have to spend a lot of time and effort convincing anyone how important leadership development is. The primary reason your company is so successful and admired is because you already are.

Good for you! You can spend time actually developing your next generation of leaders and making your current leaders even better.

However, if you’re not so fortunate, and you’re not willing to let your company go down the tubes without a fight, then here are 7 compelling reasons to take seriously, to invest in, and to put priority on leadership development.

Note: Credit for these goes to Morgan McCall, from one of my favorite leadership development books, High Flyers, Developing the Next Generation of Leaders. We actually used them in a former company to help turn the tide.

1. Leadership makes a difference.
The more change that lies ahead, the more important great leadership will be. The quality and quantity can be improved through development.

2. Companies can’t always find outside or buy the leadership they need.
If they do, it is expensive and does not come with a money-back guarantee. Sports teams can rarely buy a championship through free agency. In business, success in one company does not always translate to success in another.

3. Derailments are expensive.
The higher the level, the more expensive they are. Costs include wasted salary, relocation expenses, finding and installing a replacement, buy-out packages, damage to morale and productivity, and a slew of other intangibles.

4. Survival of the fittest is not the same as survival of the best.
Leaving leadership development to chance is foolish. There just are not enough potential leaders around to allow most of them to drown with no assistance.

Side note: A cockroach is one of the most adaptable creatures on the planet. That’s survival of the fittest. Do we want our organizations led by cockroaches?

5. Most of the cost of development is sunk.
Leadership development is already taking place within any organization (job changes, stretch assignments, making mistakes, and role model bosses). Not to reap a return on the investment is bad business.

6. Creating a learning environment is consistent with business strategies that involve having employees take on more responsibility, assume more risk, and solve problems.

7. It’s good business practice.
Investors consider the quality of a corporation’s management. Talented people prefer to work for companies that invest in their development. Customers prefer to work with companies that can solve their problems. Companies like that have strong cultures that place high value on leadership.
Make this your elevator speech to your top executives (OK, you might have to accidentally hit the stop button). Memorize them, enhance them with examples and data from your own company, and recite them with conviction and passion.

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