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The Corporate challenge: Cultivating leadership potential internally

The Corporate challenge: Cultivating leadership potential internally

“It’s not like there’s this overwhelming abundance of great leadership talent, and every company gets who they need.”

—Bernard Banks, Associate Dean for Leadership Development, Clinical Professor of Management, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Bernard Banks is a retired Brigadier General who believes the corporate world can learn about leadership development opportunities through a closer look at U.S. Army strategies. Banks joined Kellogg last year following his retirement from the Army, where he most recently was at West Point’s Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership. Previously he led numerous military units.

4 key strategies for internal leadership success

It is his combination of academic and field experience that caused Banks to see the disconnect within the corporate world on how businesses manage leadership development. He has 4 key strategies that enable organizations to internally cultivate leadership potential:

1. Groom future leaders before they “make the leap”

At Corporate Class, we know first-hand the benefits of grooming high potentials before promotion. People ill-prepared to take on challenging new roles often produce poor results and high frustration – for everyone. Pushing future leaders forward based on their potential, not their readiness presumes employees will immediately become productive in their new roles.

2. Bet on everyone

Clearly, Banks acknowledges that no organization has unlimited resources to invest in talent development. He makes the point that although some select candidates may warrant greater investment, more mainstream employees should not be expected to find their own way. In the Army he learned the benefit of this approach. This broader scope of PD helps to retain talent as well. When an organization invests in ongoing talent development, it sends a clear message to employees: they are valued team members.

3. Immersive Training

Banks recognize that although the Army is well known for placing people in situations to make them better at thinking and responding, this is far more challenging in the corporate world. He believes that going forward, more companies will send employees to business simulation training. According to Banks, “organizations have to learn how to take smart risks in service of growing their people. The challenge is, are you willing to invest those resources?”

4. Keep employees in the driver’s seat

The message here is self-directed development. This encourages people to take responsibility for their future. Leadership training is a door-opener for employees, not a commitment to their advancement.

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