Essay on Leadership Development Programmes Must Be Effectively Linked to an Organisation’s Overall Business Strategy in Order To Enhance the Performance of the Organisation Concerned and Develop the Quality of Leadership Required by the Organisation

Published: 2021/11/16
Number of words: 2886


Prior to embarking on directly addressing the research question, the concept of leadership will be explored (with different styles analysed) to inform the composition of this assignment, with numerous theoretical perspectives also being consulted.

What is Leadership?

Leadership is something which has been explored by numerous studies in empirical literature and other such entities. It has been disseminated across a number of disciplines (particularly business) and has been central to research concerning management and business techniques. There are many styles of leadership: including autocratic, democratic (also known as participative leadership) and delegative (laissez-fair) leadership (Lewin et al., 1934). There is some debate over which style of leadership is the most desirable, with Bass and Bass (2008) noting that autocratic leaders have centralised power but this may lead to discontent within the business and employee dissatisfaction. They expounded that the democratic style of leadership is relevant in some aspects, although the delegative style of leadership may be inferior to the other two styles due to it relying on high levels of intrinsic motivation from the employees, which may not be present (Meyer and Allen, 1997).

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However, these styles of leadership are thought to be quite outdated and perhaps not relevant to the contemporary era where business is complex and continually changing. Leadership is thought to be more of a fluid concept, with rather than one ultimate style being applied, a mixture of leadership styles are espoused by effective leaders depending on the maturity (in other words work ethic) of the employees and this informs the type of leadership style which will be instituted (Hersey and Blanchard, 1988).

This is summed up in the table below:

Maturity LevelMost Appropriate Leadership Style
M1: Low MaturityS1: Telling/Directing
M2: Medium maturity, limited skillsS2: Selling/coaching
M3: Medium maturity, higher skills, but lacking confidenceS3: Participating/Supporting
M4: High MaturityS4: Delegating

Figure 1: Interaction between maturity level of employees and most appropriate leadership style (Hersey and Blanchard, 1988)

The table above seemingly implies that leaders need to be more ‘hands on’ when working with employees who are not particularly skilled and gradually decreasing their interaction with the worker as their competency increases (presumably with seniority and experience) and allowing them more autonomy and free rein to undertake tasks. These leadership styles will be referred to sporadically throughout the assignment, whilst being intertwined with a critical discussion of leadership development programmes and how the overall business strategy of a company is intertwined with this, which forms the main body of this assignment.

Leadership Development Programmes and link with overall business strategy

Elucidating a formal definition of the concept, Groves (2007) construes leadership development programmes as being planned and systematic efforts to improve the quality of leadership in an organisation. Leadership development programmes are comparable with talent management and development programmes, which specifically concerns the attraction, retention and development of all individuals within a company who are deemed to be of high value to them, in order to allow them to reach their full potential and contribute to the business success of the company (CIPD, 2012).

Bersin (2012) advocates that leadership development programmes should be heavily informed by the overall goals of a business and the ethos which they subscribe to:

Figure 2- Bersin and Associates Leadership Development Linkage Model (O’Leonard and Loew, 2012)

This model seemingly implies a linear relationship between the business strategy, leadership strategy and subsequently, leadership development strategy. Such a theory seems to be simplistic however, and disregards the fact that practices vary from firm to firm, although it seems a rational argument that the ethos and overall direction of a firm will impact on how they develop their leadership within their organisation. However, the model is given further backing by CIPD (2015) who feel that leadership development programmes need to be heavily intertwined with the overall success of a company for it to be successful, as the company can school their employees in a way which is commensurate and fitting with their overall business strategy and future direction of the company. CIPD (2015) also advocates several stakeholders being consulted in order to inform the effectiveness of leadership development programs, hinting at a participatory style of leadership being useful in this case. Despite this, CIPD (2015) also vehemently state that the values of the company in leadership development programs should always be present and not diluted in any form, so that the employees of the firm can be schooled in the best way possible.

However, there are still seemingly attributes which need to be present in order for leadership development programmes to be successful such as cognitive, interpersonal and behavioural development goals (Iszatt-White and Saunders, 2014). This seems to infer that although the overall business strategy is certainly an important variable in determining the nature of leadership development programmes, there will still be some common features between the leadership development program of each company, with ultimately the aim of all companies being to ensure success for the business and allow them to achieve their goals. If the point is true that the business strategy within a company affects the nature of the leadership development programmes, then it seems wise to appraise this point in more depth. Schein’s (1992) definition of ‘organisational culture’ within a company (that it refers to the values, behaviours and exist within a company) seems to be synonymous with the ethos/overall direction of a company, and subsequently its business strategy. Stein (1992) also makes the point that culture is the hardest attribute of an organisation to change, which seems to solidify the close association between business strategy and leadership development programmes. However, another stance on this could be that if the culture of employees within an organisation is not amenable to the overall business strategy of a company, then subsequent leadership development programmes may not be as successful as if the culture within the company was more conducive to them. Regardless of this, this seems to give rise to the hypothesis that leadership development should be linked to an organisation’s culture for it to be successful.

However, there may be a multitude of other factors which influence the effectiveness of leadership development programmes, in addition to the overall business strategy of the company. In reference to the earlier point, even though there is clearly a relationship to some degree between the overall business strategy of a company, the leadership development programs and the ensuing success of the company, there are also other factors which affect the success of the company. The organisational culture has already been mentioned as an eminent factor, however the talent which an organisation possesses could also be significant in determining the effect of leadership development programmes. With regards to the point made at the beginning of the assignment, some people may not be suitable to become leaders, perhaps due to lacking the personal traits which need to be present to become a leader. Bennis (1989) notes that not every individual is ‘born’ to be a leader and leadership training will only equip those who are not natural leaders with a certain proficiency in leadership, thus implying that the human capital and resources which are at the disposal of a company are central to determining the success of leadership development programmes. Cooper et al. (2005) also note that there is ample evidence to suggest that there is an absence of ‘authentic’ leaders in contemporary society, and efforts to inspire such a phenomenon may be unfounded. These points suggest that the personality and attributes of employees, rather than just the quality of the leadership programs provided are most important in determining the success of the organisation. This seems to reaffirm Goleman’s (1996) earlier point that emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills are key attributes of becoming a successful leader and, whilst this can be developed to some degree, there may only be a certain level which leadership programmes can get those individuals not blessed with such innate attributes too.

Evaluating the success of Leadership Development Programmes

Surprisingly, only 7% of all managers believe that they have implemented successful leadership development programmes (Gitsham, 2009), although care should be taken not to generalise results in evaluating the full efficacy of leadership development programmes. A more plausible statistic is provided by Harvard Business Review (2014) who reports that 4 in ten frontline managers do not receive the appropriate training and tools to fulfil their potential. These statistics seem to paint a negative view of the success of leadership development programmes, although evaluating the effectiveness of them can quite challenging, as it may be hard to identify what ‘successful’ actually means in the context of leadership development programmes. Whilst the financial performance of an organisation may be a fundamental numerical indicator of the success of leadership development programmes, Cappelli (2008) observes that the management of talent is also crucial in evaluating the success of such strategies – in that the retention rate of talented employees is indicative of the overall success of the leadership programme and success of the organisation. Cappelli (2008) also observes that if such talented employees were to exit the company, the financial ramifications of such an act would be considerable: with this being one of the biggest issues in talent management presently. The coherency of the leadership development programme and how it is devised is another attribute which may need to be considered, as there are numerous forms of training which may exist in leadership development. Green and Skinner (2005) advocate measuring systems of the effectiveness of leadership development as being clear and transparent and not leaving any room for ambiguity. This seems to be a rational point: given the assortment of variables which can be measured when assessing the effectiveness and success of leadership development programs: satisfaction of employees of the training they received, the characteristics of those that attended, cost effectiveness and the reactions of employees post-training are all examples of factors which could be appraised in order to form an overall assessment and appraisal of the effectiveness of leadership development programmes (APSC, 2005).

Figure 3- Evaluation Measures of the Leadership Development Programmes (CIPD, 2011)

The table above shows some of the measures which can be employed to measure the success of learning development programmes in a statistical sense at least. The satisfaction ratings are similar for each country, with the UK higher on average. What is interesting about the table above however is that the financial aspects which are measured (ROI- Return on Investment) score much less than personal measures of satisfaction (individual stories/testimony, happy sheets), although there may be some bias/subjectivity incurred by these measures. However, upon the premise of these statistical figures at least, it seems that leadership development programmes have a tangible impact on the individuals participating in them, and a certain impact on the price of the overall success of the company in business terms.

Case study

Whilst it is useful to explore the theoretical tenets of leadership development programmes, the link between theory and practice cannot be illustrated unless they are placed into a real-life context. Weick (1979) notes that the relationship between theory and practice is not necessarily linear- i.e. what occurs in theory may not necessarily also be present in practice. Therefore, this section succinctly outlines the efforts of Johnson and Johnson in leadership development programmes.

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson is an American Pharmaceutical company which offers products in a numerous range of areas such as for infants, oral health care and over-the-counter medicines; the company is very successful having more than 275 operating companies worldwide and employing in excess of 120,000 people (J and J, 2015). As shown by the diagram below, there is a clear link between the leadership development programmes and the overall business strategy:

Figure 4- Connection between overall strategy and leadership development programmes (Lecture, 2015)

There is a clear alignment between the overall strategy and leadership development programmes, although the connection is indirect, rather than being explicit. Johnson and Johnson (2013) also articulate that their company engages in only ethical practices and sees talent development as the cornerstone of their success, with over 12,000 employees participating in the talent development programmes the company has set up, which encompass a range of training features, including workshops, inspirational talks and education days for more senior employees. Such a commitment to training talent and allowing employees to fulfil their potential is clearly commensurate with enhancing the success of the business. According to Johnson and Johnson (2013), the business strategy they have is ethical and takes into account individual’s needs (each employee has an individual development plan), this caring approach (perhaps indicative of a more democratic leadership style) seems to be paying dividends with their employees: due to the veritable success of the company and the employee satisfaction rating (87 out of 100, a figure which is apparently on the rise) of such programs (Lecture, 2015).

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This assignment has provided a holistic account of leadership development programmes and also expressed a holistic account of the concept of leadership, including evaluating different styles of leadership and communicating the theory which surrounds it. Evidently, leadership development programmes should be linked to a company’s overall business strategy in order for them to be successful, although the degree to which they are may vary between each company (due to the plethora of organisational cultures which are in existence). The magnitude of the link may also depend on other factors such as the actual amount of talent available to the firm and the retention rate of talented individuals.


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