Senior leaders’ strategic role in leadership development

Publication Date11 Jun 2018
AuthorClinton Longenecker,Gary S. Insch
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Employee behaviour
On another note
Senior leadersstrategic role in leadership
Clinton Longenecker and Gary S. Insch
Purpose The purposeof this paper is to identify the specific practices seniorleaders need to engage in
to best support their organization’sleadership development initiatives.All organizations investbillions of
dollars around the world in leadershipdevelopment, but there is surprisingly little attention given to the
important role that senior leaders play in supporting these efforts. This paper draws upon focus group
research with those responsible for designing and implementing leadership development initiatives to
identifythe strategic role senior leaders play in formalleadership development efforts.
Design/methodology/approach To explore this issue, we conducted structured focus groupswith
over 250 executives, HR leaders and talent managers from over 30 different global organizations.
Participantswere responsible for leadership developmentin their respective organizations, averaged44
years of age, 18 years of work experience, and were 54 per cent men and 46 per cent women. These
focus groups were being used to solicit the input of those responsible for leadership development to
identify the specific things senior leaders need to do to best support these leadership development
efforts. The participantswere asked to answer the following question,‘‘Based on your experience, what
specific things do senior leaders in your organization need to do to best support your efforts at
developinghigh performance and strong leadership talent?’’
Findings Focus groups identified a series of key senior leader behaviors that are necessaryto support an
organization’s leadership development efforts. These findings, includedthe importance of senior leadership
commitment to the process, the identification of specific leadership behaviors necessary to support these
initiatives, the requirement of clearly understanding the organizations leadership development process,
providing appropriate financial, staffing and technology resources to support these efforts, creating a
climate of continuous learning and role modeling appropriatebehaviors, among other findings.
Research limitations/implications While the focus groups in this research and the subsequent
qualitative and quantitative analysis of the findingswere rigorous, the participants were not a randomly
selected group and were bydefinition a convenience sample. At the same time, the implications of this
research are significanton this important subject and provide a solid baseline for both practitionersand
researchers alike to help explore, identify and build on best practices for senior leaders to support
organizationalleadership developmentinitiatives.
Practical implications Leadershipis thekey to success in any organization. To maintain that success,
leadership development and continuous learning is imperative. This paper provides ten specific
practices based on the focus group research that can help senior leaders create a more supportive
environment for effective leadership development initiatives. The methodology used to identify these
factorscan be duplicated in other organizations to help thembuild an appropriate model for senior leader
supportfor leadership development in their enterprise.
Social implications The social implicationsfor improving any organizations’ leadershipis significant. It
is known that effective leaders foster innovation, improve teamwork, create a more positive workplace,
drive continuousimprovement in quality, reduce turnover and improvethe financial performance of most
enterprises. With this backdrop, organizations can andmust do everything in their power to accelerate
leadership developmentand to engage in activities that do so. This paperwill help pinpoint leaders and
leadershipdevelopment researchers and expertsin that direction.
Originality/value This manuscript offers a unique perspective on the role of senior leaders from the
perspectiveof those who design leadership developmentprogramming in their organizations.And given
Clinton Longenecker is
Distinguished University
Professor of Leadership at
the College of Business
and Innovation, The
University of Toledo,
Toledo, Ohio, USA
Gary S. Insch is based at
the College of Business
and Innovation, The
University of Toledo,
Toledo, Ohio, USA.
DOI 10.1108/SHR-02-2018-0014 VOL. 17 NO. 3 2018, pp. 143-149, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1475-4398 jSTRATEGIC HR REVIEW jPAGE 143

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