There are several variables that make a leadership strategy successful:

1. Manage your talent portfolio like your business leaders manage the business portfolio.

2. Bring critical discussions about culture, leadership, and organizational capability to the front. Make these discussions part of the rhythm of the business.

3. Make sure that at every step of the way, you keep in mind that the work of creating a business-centric leadership strategy is not an HR process; it’s a business imperative! The degree to which the business owns the development and implementation of the plan (while HR facilitates) is paramount to success.

4. Create the conditions such that the leaders of the business value the company’s human capital capabilities (culture, leadership, organization) as a competitive business advantage.

5. Make sure every decision that you influence is one of accreting your leadership portfolio (not replicating, or worse yet, diluting).

6. Be aggressive and forward thinking in how you mine your company’s talent data, such that it is focused on organizational strengths and business results. Take action and start today.


Five leadership strategy traps to avoid


Even the best talent professionals can fall into traps when developing leadership strategies and talent plans. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

1. No or less-than-optimal support from the CEO. Without it, your chances of success drop to less than 50 percent.

2. Confusing a leadership strategy with a succession plan. While they are similar, your leadership strategy should be an active, business-centric plan that is owned and led by the senior-most business leaders of your company. Your leadership strategy should be more comprehensive and inclusive of organizational capabilities, culture, and leadership.

3. No clear definition of what “leadership” means in the context of your business strategy and organizational model. Leadership is contextual. It is critical to understand those capabilities that will create sustained competitive differentiation in the business context in which your organization must thrive.

4. Using subjective or HR data to make crucial leadership and organization decisions. Would your company make a critical acquisition without conducting sufficient due diligence?

Would your company close down a domestic operation and move it overseas without robustly analyzing the business, regulatory, governmental, tax and talent decisions of making such a decision? Point made!

5. Ignoring the complementary power of the team. The value of the leadership strategy is that you look holistically at the capabilities of the business. The value is at the systems level—not the micro-level (as is the case with succession planning). As such, your ability to build “extreme” teams with leaders who complement each other becomes a powerful resource for your organization.

This is an excerpt from the September 2012 Infoline “Developing a Leadership Strategy.”