Leadership Development: 10% of Organizations Offer it to Everyone

Illustration by istockphoto.com
Illustration by istockphoto.com

We get a lot of surveys here at TLNT, and you generally see the best of the ones we get. Some are really insightful, some pretty obvious, and others, well, they make you just scratch your head and wonder what it all means.

This one falls in that last category, at least when it comes to one of its findings.

The American Management Association (AMA), in association with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), asked nearly 1,000 global organizations this question in their 2010 AMA/i4cp Developing Successful Global Leaders Study:

What level of employee in your organization participates in your most high-profile leadership development programs? (select all that apply)

Here are the surprising results:

  • 64.6 percent — Director;
  • 62.5 percent — Vice President;
  • 61.8 percent — Targeted high potential;
  • 51.2 percent — Manager;
  • 45.3 percent — Executive Vice President;
  • 9.5 percent — Open to anyone in the organization;
  • 2.1 percent — Not applicable.

Only one thing in here really surprised me, and it may have surprised you too. That is, nearly 10 percent of the global organizations surveyed offer their high-profile leadership development programs to ANYONE (and one would assume everyone) in their workforce?

Most training focused on high potentials

“To be sure, the great majority of organizations focus their development resources on high potential managers presumed to be headed for positions of responsibility,” said Sandi Edwards, Senior Vice President for AMA Corporate Learning Solutions, in a press release that went with the survey. “But we found that an unexpected percentage of employers offer leadership development across the board. They may feel the policy addresses the growing demand by individuals for opportunities to learn and grow, and that it thereby boosts their commitment while also bolstering overall organizational performance.”

Although most leadership programs are relatively exclusive, Edwards said, there are almost always other kinds of development opportunities more widely available. “And those who distinguish themselves in such programs may in turn be targeted for leadership ones. Everyone can’t be on the ‘all star” team, but everyone can strive to get there.

That’s good advice to be sure, but I still wonder about the nearly 10 percent of organizations that let anyone in the organization participate in the most high-profile leadership development program. Is this simply some statistical quirk, or does it touch on some new leadership training trend being quietly developed in a handful of really cutting edge and forward thinking companies?

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Is there a reason for this?

I’ve dug through the survey report — and there is some really great stuff in there if you are one of those people who get weak in the knees reading about current training and development trends — but really not much more on that 9.5 percent of organizations that offer high level management training to everyone in their workforce.

Now, I am not a training and development expert, so perhaps there is some other reason for this that escapes me, but it was an intriguing finding in this survey that left me wanting to know more — about the companies that did this, about the reasons behind this strategy, about what they know that so many others don’t.

If you think you know the answer, please let me know, because this may be the one of the greatest workforce development practices ever utilized, or just a glitch in the data that has been horribly over-analyzed by someone like me who doesn’t know any better.

I’m hoping it is the former rather than the latter, but I’d love to have someone tell me either way.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.