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The Conference Board 2006 Leadership Development ConferenceDeveloping a New Cadre of Global Leaders for Top-line Growth

May 26, 2006
Related Topics: Featured Article

Event: The Conference Board 2006 Leadership Development Conference—Developing a New Cadre of Global Leaders for Top-line Growth
May 24-25, 2006, at the Coronado Island Marriott, Coronado, California

What: The Conference Board is a major business membership organization with a global network of nearly 2,000 businesses and organizations in 61 countries. Conference Board sessions provide executives with an opportunity to share practical business experience, rather than theory, primarily from senior executives from major organizations.

Conference info: For more information about Conference Board events, go to

Thursdsay, May 25, 2006

Show notes: It’s a small world

Nobody likes a jerk: Across the world, there are some leadership traits that are universally endorsed and some that are universally rejected, according to a presentation by researchers from the Center for Creative Leadership. Citing a study of 62 societies, Kelly Hannum and Marian Ruderman said leader attributes that are considered positive around the globe include being trustworthy, just, honest and "excellence oriented."

Among the qualities of leaders that everybody seems to hate are being irritable, egocentric, ruthless and dictatorial.

There are other traits that can be bad or good in a leader depending on the cultural context, Hannum and Ruderman say. These "culturally contingent" attributes include being indirect, enthusiastic, cautious, independent, logical and ambitious.

"High-po" problems: During day two of the conference, more questions were raised about programs to give lots of corporate love to "high-potential" leaders. Cara Capretta Raymond, president of leadership specialist Lominger, says companies these days err with such programs in two ways. First, they identify too many people. While some firms earmark 11 percent or more of their leaders as high potentials, they really should narrow the programs down to just 2 percent to 3 percent of rising stars, Capretta Raymond says. Second, she says, companies with high-potential programs can neglect to create development plans for "high-pros."

These are great performers who may not be seen as future executives but are nonetheless crucial to a company.

"Your ‘high-pros’ are just as important," she says.

Executive exodus? Capretta Raymond also advised companies to start grooming employees 30 years old or less for the chief executive officer slot. She cited research that CEO tenure is down to a median of five years. And she warned of a major departure of leaders in the near future.

"About 75 percent of our top leaders are going to retire in the next five years," she says.

Building with BRICs: Doing business in the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China is at once challenging and rewarding, officials with tech companies Corning and Agilent Technologies said during a presentation. Teresa Roche, chief learning officer at Agilent, says Chinese people who lived through the country’s infamous Cultural Revolution tend to be relatively risk-averse. On the other hand, she said there’s a hunger for self-improvement in emerging markets.

"Expectations for learning, development and growth are high!" Roche said in prepared remarks.

Rick O’Leary, a director at Corning, predicted highly educated leaders from BRIC countries will fill posts in the United States—a twist on the way U.S. execs have traveled to head overseas units.

"You’re going to see a lot more of those leaders in the U.S., kind of being an expat to us."

--Ed Frauenheim

Show notes: All Together Now

Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What a difference a decade makes: Leadership development matters more to companies than it did 10 years ago, and leadership has a strong social component. Those are among the themes at the Conference Board’s Leadership Development Conference outside San Diego.

Ten years ago, specialists in training and development complained that company executives didn’t see the value of nurturing future leaders, said Beau Parnell, director of the leadership development group at software giant Microsoft. CEOs now see grooming senior managers as a priority, he said. Meanwhile, jobs at the top have come to require a broader understanding of the entire company than they used to. Previously, "you got away with hiding in your department," he said, but leaders today "must understand the whole system."

Lone cowboys vs. powerful posses: Good leadership is about more than just talented individuals making the call, suggested a number of speakers at the conference, which attracted about 150 people, including company executives and vendors of leadership development products.

In a session titled "From Command and Control to Creative Debate, Influencing and Collaboration," Rob Reindl of Edwards Lifesciences detailed his firm’s attempts to foster frank, civil discussions as part of the company culture. A "maverick" employee complained that it was tough to bring up the "really tough" issues at the medical device maker several years ago, said Reindl, the firm’s corporate vice president of human resources. In response, Edwards surveyed its employees on the issue of company openness and trained leaders on speaking up and listening.

The 5,400-employee company now evaluates managers on the topic of "creative debate" and even arranged for small icons embodying the concept to go on leaders’ desks and conference tables. In the transparent statue, a tornado-looking spiral emerges from a heart at the center.

"It’s in people’s heads now," Reindl says. "The icon sits there."

Mapping out the social networks people form in companies can illuminate both vital employees and the ways business really gets done, according to a presentation by consultant Valdis Krebs and Chris Chen, a manager at energy services company Sempra Energy. Krebs said that "social capital"—meaning whom you know rather than what you know--is an ingredient for success.

"The American mythology is the lone cowboy gets things done, no matter what," Krebs says. "But the world doesn’t work that way."

A few stars or the whole constellation? A training program at consumer products maker S.C. Johnson & Son marks a departure from the focus these days on "high-potential" individuals. The program, which targets the layer of about 300 leaders just below top executives, deliberately includes senior managers not designated as rising stars, says Sherry Johnson Metz, director of global leadership development at the 12,000-person company. "We’re doing more for everyone that’s in those key roles," she says.

Greater attention to the group, though, doesn’t mean individual accountability is dead. Bill Sullivan, CEO of Agilent Technologies, said the measurement equipment maker is in the midst of reorganization resulting in 30 percent of senior leaders leaving the company. "The people who don’t deliver have to be replaced," he says.

Buzzword: "General manager." This layer of leadership is getting a good deal of attention. The new S.C. Johnson training program targets the equivalent of general managers, and a conference session focused on "The New General Manager."

Best speaker: Ronan Knox, executive vice president of consulting firm the Forum Corp. Knox, who called himself a "Scot with an English accent who lives in Chicago," helped create S.C. Johnson’s leadership training program. He said a key to the effort was borrowing the "hero’s journey" concept from mythology scholar Joseph Campbell. The concept--that heroes answer a call, face and overcome challenges, and bring back a gift to their community--is credited with being the root of the Star Wars film franchise and can help leaders rise to new levels, Knox argued. "It is a very powerful metaphor," he said.

--Ed Frauenheim

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