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  • Writer's pictureMark Bragg (Braggy)

Obsess Over Leadership Capability

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

Leadership development as part of your strategy

Almost all performance, productivity and cultural challenges can be traced back to a single point of failure – Leadership and Management capability.

What I find most perplexing is that very few organisations do well when it comes to improving that capability. Some pay it no attention at all and those that do, often implement programs that are random and piecemeal, in reality only making a token response to something that is at the very heart of their own success.

Part of the reason is the failure of Executive Leadership Teams to actually think through their Leadership and Management Development Strategy, which seems crazy given the potential impact of leaders at all levels.

James Comey in his recently released book A Higher Loyalty (the book is more about Leadership than his experience with Trump) makes a salient point. …the best organisations obsess over Leadership Talent…they test it, train it and make it part of every conversation.

Regardless of the size or nature of your organisation here are some thoughts on how to think about your Leadership and Management Program and ensure it is linked to both performance and culture.


First, some key lessons from watching, experiencing and delivering Leadership and Management programs over the last 20+ years.

1.    Sound Leadership and Management will be the #1 influencer of Performance and Culture.

2.    Successful Leadership Development Programs are well constructed and have absolute backing and support from the organisation’s Leadership.

3.    All Leaders should be involved from the Executive to the Frontline and the program should be ongoing – you never stop learning.

4.    Leadership Development is NOT a generic one size fits all exercise. Each company is different, each Leader is different.

5.    Leadership Development Programs should be tied directly to company performance and culture. In fact, it should be part of their culture, reflecting the company’s DNA.

6.    The Coaching of Leaders should take place in a ‘live’ environment and be related directly to the Leader’s current responsibility and performance.


Leadership and Management Programs fall into five broad categories:

  • Learning Programs. These are basically Leadership and Management Courses that can be delivered internally or externally.

  • Experiential Programs. These programs are usually run outdoors and involve simulated Leadership challenges.  Courses of this type operate on the basis of action learning or learning by doing. 

  • Personal Coaching Programs. These programs provide personalised coaching for Leaders, usually conducted over a period of time and are usually linked to the Leaders/Managers current situation.

  • Mentoring Programs. These are normally conducted internally and involve experienced Leaders mentoring those with less experience. Again, if they are well structured and managed, they can be extremely effective.

  • Academic Leadership Programs. These programs are usually run by Business Schools. (Harvard, Stanford etc.) Almost every big University has one of these programs.

All are valuable and can only help improve Leadership Development. I have a personal preference for one to one Coaching because it can be directly related to helping develop Leaders as they work through actual challenges they are experiencing and helping them deliver on performance objectives. 

The basic point though is that is any combination of these is going to be helpful if it is well planned, co-ordinated and on-going. 


Although Leadership Development is specific to each Leader, for most organisations your Leadership and Management Development needs will fall into 4 broad categories. 

  • ·Executive Leaders.  This group are those leaders who you might consider are proven Leaders. They are generally C-Level Executives but not always. They have undertaken some formal training, perhaps an MBA or Business Management Program.

  • Experienced Leaders. This group have been Leading or Managing for some time. They could include middle and frontline managers who have not had the benefit of formal training.

  • In-experienced Leaders. These are folks who have recently been given Leadership and Management responsibility and have had limited training and support. It could also include people who have been identified as Emerging Leaders but have not yet been given the responsibility.

  • Specialised Areas of Need. Another way to approach Leadership Development is to identify areas where you have a specific need and run programs specifically for that purpose. For example, programs directed at improving Performance Management, Communication, Recruiting or Strategy Development. 

The key challenges then, is to look at the suite of programs available and match them as closely as possible to your areas of need. All under the umbrella of your Leadership and Management Development Strategy.


Your Leadership and Management Development Strategy should be treated in exactly the same way as any other company strategy. It needs to be well planned and executed and consistently reviewed to evaluate its effectiveness and performance against objectives.

To begin you might consider answering these questions:

1.     Why do you want to undertake a Leadership Development Program?

  • Improve Performance?

  • Improve Culture?

  • Just to improve the strength of Leadership?

  • Because you feel you have a Learning and Development obligation?

  • Staff retention?

2.    What does success look like in 3-years? (Choose your own time frame.)

Be clear and concise with your answers. We are developing this program to…

3.    Apply some Measures of Success. Metrics could include:

  • Performance. 

  • Engagement.

  • Productivity.

  • Staff Retention.

4.    What resources do we currently have?What else might we need and how can we best apply them to greatest effect.

5.     How will we execute this? 

  • Who will Lead the program?

  • How will it be introduced and delivered?

  • How will it be reviewed and evaluated?


Like any other part of your enterprise, Leadership and Management Development has to fit into your overall strategy. It has to compete for time, effort and resources and be judged against its return on investment. 

BUT, regardless of your size, whether you are a multinational or a small business, you cannot afford to ignore it, because it will almost certainly impact your success or failure.

“Winning companies win because they have good leaders who nurture the development of other leaders at all levels of the organization.” — Noel Tichy

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