Choosing the choicest chiefs

Organisations will pay a lot for a recognised leader. But as Simon Wilde says, money isn’t everything.

We live in an age where the cult of the leader is ever present. The most successful organisations in the world have become defined by their leaders. Microsoft and Virgin are good examples.

Thanks to intense market forces, the clamour for leadership keeps on heightening. Fuelling this demand is the opinion that an effective leader will ensure a company’s survival. Not surprisingly, leaders have become expensive commodities.

With the hunt to gather world-class staff, an increasing number of law firms are wisely grooming and training their star employees through coaching and mentoring, looking inward for those people with the ‘right stuff’ to take the business forward.

For many buyers of leadership development, the return on investment is excellent. Nevertheless, with the pressures to groom leaders fast, some firms are charging into development without considering what they actually want from their prospective and current leaders. The danger is that leadership development becomes generic and misplaced.

Here are 10 tips for ensuring that leadership development is effective for your organisation:1. In the front line of the talent war, moulding the best personnel takes time. Be aware that leadership development is a long-term solution, not a quick fix.2. Define the leader’s goals. Bear in mind that there are no set characteristics to leadership. Furthermore, objectives need to be bespoke to the organisation and the marketplace in which the company operates.3. To help you understand the qualities and skills you need to look for, devise a vision for the culture of your organisation for the next 5-10 years. Review it every six months. Deploying an objective third party provider to help formulate your company vision can be valuable.4. Identify star talent as early as possible. Companies that can groom successors not only save on the recruitment costs of an outside search, but also minimise the risk of an appointment turning sour.5. When promoting internally, consider using psychometric profiling to ascertain whether the employee has the right qualities to take on the role.6. Think about the type of support and development suitable for your star talent. A combination of leadership development is often the best approach. One-to-one coaching, mentoring and off-site training are just some of the options available.7. When considering leadership training for an executive, treat them as an individual rather than defining them by their role. Too many purchasing decisions for training courses are based on job titles as opposed to what is suitable to each person.8. When making leadership decisions, senior management needs to work closely with the HR department. In fact, HR must be integrated with any leadership development strategy.9. Make sure you are clear on whether you are looking for managers or leaders from your leadership development. Leadership and management are often used interchangeably, but they are two different concepts. Managers are given a goal and then manage their team to achieve it. Leaders define that goal and are accountable for its outcome.10. When choosing your training provider, conduct your research thoroughly. Do not just look at price. Consider the quality and experience of each trainer and their industry knowledge.

Studies have shown that there is a direct link between investment in leadership development and organisational performance. If you are opting for leadership development for your organisation, do not just rush into it. Make sure you take the time to consider what your organisation requires from its prospective and current leaders.

Simon Wilde is the managing director at Capita People Development