My simple answer to Leadership Development Success

My answer to how leadership development programs can succeed.

I prepared my answer to why leadership development fails in a discussion at the organization development network group on LinkedIn.  I thought I would share this also with you.

My leadership development programs never fail.

I know that sounds arrogant. Well I started this process with a Charlie Seashore T group in 1962. One would think that over time, one finally gets it right. Leadership was always an important part of the national training laboratory learning experience. My mentor, Dick Beckhard  a key person at NTL, told me that he was the first to bring leadership development training to Europe.

My simple answer is that when I integrate Leadership Development with whole systems change methodology, It always succeeds. Why, because I use authentic learning processes from the traditional profession of organization development. I engage the whole system through action research utilizing the Argyris model of valid data followed by free choice resulting in internal commitment. I also have another 12 or so theoreticians that I use i.e. Gibb, Lippitt, Danemiller, Beckhard, Schein, Weisbord, Alban, Burke and so forth.

Allow me one true story:

Once upon a time there was an organization of 1,200 people that needed leadership development.

Before we started, the HR group for five years god resistance.

I started as I always start…with a 2 1/2 day executive team transformation old-fashioned teambuilding. The main focus was leadership.  The team became transformed and aligned around a new vision. As Miles said above, we needed to take the concept from Bennis and authentically put vision into reality.

We did so by first designing a three-day large group interactive experience with the 200 leaders of the organization.

Here is some dialogue from that meeting. They were trying to decide how to bring the vision alive in the rest of the organization.

Mike, who is famous even on national television, broke one of my rules in a large meeting by standing up and grabbing the microphone.

He said, “How many of you did not want to come to this meeting. Please raise your hand. I expect total honesty because the last two days has changed our culture to one of trust and openness and self-realization and interdependence. ( I had taught them Gibb’s TORI theory)

About 80% of the hands went up

Then he said.  How many believe this is the most compelling meeting we’ve ever had in your tenure here?

Every hand went up but 2.

He said.  We’ve just made our decision about how we are going to respond to our CEO’s charge, that we just heard, for us being responsible for bringing the vision into reality.

I suggest that we hold engagement summits like this with the rest of the organization.

People cheered.

They then went on, in front of me, and made a decision as to what consultant they should hire to lead them through the process. After 30 minute dialogue (I had lost control)  the group unanimously decided to go with me

We then went on with our two summits.  The first summit handed their work over to the second summit. The executive team became heroes.

In my summit design work, I always invite the organization to bring in the world expert related to their focus of change. In this case, it was leadership.

Allow me to digress:

I gave the design team my favorite leadership consultant names. They did their own research and  freely choose my favorite, Dr. Bob Terry. Thus, the late Dr. Bob Terry, keynoted both events that ended in standing ovations. One feedback sheet named him, “Santa Clause on speed.”

Bob and I first met at NTL in the 60’s.  Dr. Terry and I were writing a book integrating his leadership theory with my Whole System Transformation ™ at the time of his death.

Building on the notion of action research in using the image of a wheel to denote whole system he named his leadership work the around the concept of an “Action Wheel Leadership”

Check out a web site dedicated to his contribution. His leadership work is classic.

Unlike most leadership theory, it is truly based on Whole SystemTheory!

Back to the story. The result: The whole system designed a leadership program that ultimately turned out to be 12 inches deep of paper. They continued the journey for years, using the same process to tackle new issues.  Jim C. the internal change agent, still to this day is one of my most treasured friends.

Every person in the organization went through that leadership development follow up process with glee and joy. Why? Because they felt listened to, empowered and in the context of a very important mission, freedom to do it their way…the way of  collective system intelligence…not what the CEO wanted or with some leadership framework imposed on them by some outside consulting firm.

So there you have it, my answer and story to leadership development.  Engage the whole organization starting at the top.

Part four:

Yesterday Dr. Koestenbaum asked me to incorporate my whole system change processes with his wonderful leadership Diamond theory. The issue is I just don’t have time to go find a client for him. In my mind, he is the all time number one leading business philosopher with a specialty in leadership. His stuff is deep but by God it’s right.

Instead the world is telling me that the issue of CEO’s today is talent management and not leadership.

Therefore the only person I know who has four editions of a book called “Talent Management,” is Professor Rothwell,  He asked just asked me to incorporate my work with his. Thus, I have started a new group here at Linkedin.

The title is:  Accelerating talent management ™ utilizing enterprise-wide change management.

Join the conversation if you’re interested in talent management, organization development style

To my pal. Robert Crosby (as far as I know the senior T- group guru living today)

I’m starting to think about how to create an online T-group.

I can’t announce the University that going to be involved at this time.

Final and official approval still needs to occur. We have just signed up the first person for the Masters in OD online.  Others can sign up now and take their first online course this fall.

(Forgive the typos. I do not have the time to proof. )


Dr. Bob Terry.

One Response to “My simple answer to Leadership Development Success”

  1. rolandsullivan Says:

    Leadership development and Whole System Change

    I have had leaders courageously give each other live feedback since the 60’s.
    This HBR article supports my practice.

    In my work leadership development always surfaces. We connect leadership work with organization change and business conversations.

    What can you teach us about designing live feedback learning experiences or what questions do you have about such


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: