How Stars Are Made

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Direct application. Other trends in leadership development include seminars in networking, presentation skills and expanding the influence of IT leaders. These kinds of courses arise from a desire to "leverage IT within the organization," says Claremont McKenna College’s Conger. What they have in common is teaching immediately applicable skills. "It’s more like, Here’s what we’ve learned, now let’s go put it in use today," he notes. (Conger says the funky outdoor experiences that were so popular several years ago, such as group tree-climbing, are less in use today.)

Sustaining the Enthusiasm

Once CIOs have decided on a leadership development direction, they need to actively manage the program to make sure the right people are getting into it and that it fulfills their intentions. McCauley advises collecting ongoing evaluations of the program to build up evidence that it is delivering value. Otherwise, training funds can disappear in a down economy, or a major emergency project can take away staffers.

Elements that prove value include: Peers and subordinates view program participants as more effective leaders; a majority of the hires for high-level positions are internal promotions; and ROI calculations prove the link between leaders and better business results (though McCauley says that can be difficult). CIOs need to track how much money and time they have invested, she says, and then see what changes people who have been through the program make when they go back to the workplace.

"People have to see results from" leadership development, Vass says. He relates a story of a high-potential who approached him about becoming a CIO. Vass was able to plot out what the employee needed to do and the three areas he would have to work in. Though the person had some concerns about what he considered a slower career progression, Vass was able to convince him and guide him through each step. After the staffer completed the assignments, he was ready and quite happy to take a new role when a high-level position opened up. "You tell people, If you’re successful in the three roles [operations, business systems development and architecture], you’ll be promoted," Vass says. "And everyone in the organization saw him work these roles and saw him get promoted."

Not all rising stars stick around, waiting for that high-level job, of course. Inevitably, some leave for richer pastures or personal reasons. There’s not much CIOs can do to stop an employee who is determined to depart.

There are, however, practical and crucial ways to lessen the exodus. Conger says research shows that an employee’s boss is the single best determinant of whether a person will stay or leave. "So you have to assign your high-potentials to the best bosses," he says. McCauley cites research from The Center for Creative Leadership and the American Productivity & Quality Center on the retention strategies used by five best-practice companies: compensation (both competitive pay and long-term incentives), opportunities for development and advancement, flexible working arrangements, and opportunities to take on significant responsibilities.

Above all, CIOs who have embraced leadership development say their programs aren’t just an IT thing; they are an outgrowth of company philosophies that are aligned with IT department priorities. "The company overall makes a very strong statement that having leaders is important for our company," Gutierrez says. And when leadership development works, the Raymond Karrenbauers and other next-generation leaders of the world will give all that investment back to their companies with new systems and new ways of thinking that will make their CIOs very happy.


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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