Chapter Four. Getting Leader Development Right: Competence Not Competencies

Morgan W. McCall Jr.George P. Hollenbeck

Leader development is not working. Witness the “corporate crises du jour,”for example, at Disney, AOL Time Warner, Morgan Stanley. Beneath the surface of each is a failure of leadership. Despite 30-plus years of “best practice” and “best efforts” at developing leaders, daily proclamations that leader development is a science, and an unending flow of books, videotapes, and leadership gurus, despite leadership development that costs millions of dollars each year, our situation is no different than that described by Citicorp legend Walter Wriston in the 1970s: it’s easier to find millions of dollars of capital than a competent executive.

Surveys of the leader gap find that most companies (85 percent in one survey) don’t have enough leaders to carry out their strategies. Twenty years ago, John Kotter made the same point: leadership is a scarce commodity.[1] The search for new chief executive officers (CEOs) leads outside the organization more frequently today than it did then, and there is little evidence that outsiders succeed at a higher rate. The “war for talent” is popular because nobody is producing enough leaders to fill the available jobs. Even conceding that leadership is harder today than it used to be, leader development efforts haven’t kept pace with leader demand.

How can we avoid a similar litany of failure 5 or 10 or 30 years from today? ...

Get The Practice of Leadership: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.