Leaders as Teachers: What the Evidence and Experience Suggests

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

There is an evolving body of evidence that suggests business, organizational, and individual value is realized when leaders serve as teachers. The following is a small sample of current research on the topic.

In 2013, authors Betof and Owens administered a survey to three of the Conference Board councils. These councils are comprised primarily of the senior leaders of talent, learning, organization development, and leadership development of their respective organizations. Participation was voluntary. The following is a summary of the key findings from 22 participating companies.

  • Widespread use: About 90 percent of respondents report using a leaders-as-teachers (LAT) approach for in-house leadership training programs. Additionally, nearly 30 percent use this approach for technical or business function training. About 15 percent are currently updating or expanding their LAT programs.
  • LAT program benefits: When asked what benefits are derived from using a LAT approach, respondents report the following:
    • 70 percent say that LAT has contributed in a significant way to the development of employees and emerging leaders.
    • In 60 percent of the companies, LAT programs are viewed as helping to strengthen organizational culture and communications.
    • 50 percent report that the program helped the leader-teachers to develop and improve.
    • 40 percent described the LAT approach as a key driver of business results and strategic alignment.
    • 40 percent comment that LAT is an aid to succession planning and career development programs.

The detailed 2013 study, “The DNA of Leaders: Leadership Development Secrets,” examines 19 companies that have been recognized as exemplar organizations for their practices in developing leaders. Among the many findings is the trend that chief executives are helping to redefine notions of leadership. There has been a distinct shift away from standardized (often external, business school-centered) programs toward customized (often in-house, company-specific) programs that feature action learning as an important component and are tightly focused on non-negotiable company values. Most interviewees stress the importance of having senior leaders heavily involved in the design and execution of their programs, and 16 of the 19 human capital survey respondents say their CEOs are highly involved in senior programs.
Learn more from Leaders as Teachers Action Guide: Proven Approaches for Unlocking Success in Your Organizationavailable now.

About the Author

Ed Betof, EdD, is a leader, teacher, coach, mentor, and author. As president of Betof Associates, he does C-level executive and leadership team coaching. He also serves as executive coach for the Center for Creative Leadership and teaches for the Institute for Management Studies. In 2007, Ed retired as worldwide vice president of talent management and CLO at Becton, Dickinson and Company. In addition, he served for eight years as the program director for the Conference Board’s Talent and Organization Development Executive Council, and was a founding senior fellow and an academic director for the doctoral program designed to prepare chief learning officers at the University of Pennsylvania. Ed is the author or co-author of five books, including Leaders as Teachers: Unlock the Teaching Potential of Your Company’s Best and Brightest, Leaders as Teachers Action Guide, and Just Promoted!: A Twelve-Month Roadmap for Success in Your New Leadership Role. He is a frequent speaker on leadership and career topics and a former ATD Board member.

About the Author

Lisa M.D. Owens is a learning expert who applies learning sciences to create training programs that move businesses forward. She designs training for the in-person and virtual classrooms and the web. Lisa founded Training Design Strategies LLC in 2012 to help companies achieve their goals through the power of training. Beyond her current client work, she is an instructor for Ohio University’s instructional design graduate program and on GC-ASTD’s Executive Advisory Board. She is co-author of the college textbook Your Career: How to Make It Happen, the books Leaders as Teachers Action Guide and Lo start-up di una Corporate University, and a series of articles for CorpU on creating corporate universities. Lisa holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in education.

About the Author

Sue Todd is chief strategy officer at CorpU. She works with faculty at leading business schools, including Wharton, IESE, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and others, to adapt executive education programs to the practical needs of leaders. Sue has advised Global 2000 organizations on innovative learning and leadership development strategies since 1994. With more than 20 years experience, she has consulted with firms like Coca-Cola, Aetna, Exxon, The Boeing Company, HP, Pfizer, M&M Mars, and others to address the dynamic conditions of the 21st Century. Her current work focuses on complexity science, and how it reveals cracks in current organizational structures and practices under increasing marketplace dynamism. She is identifying approaches that can prepare leaders to embrace emergence and guide organization adaptability. Prior to joining CorpU, Sue was VP of product management for KnowledgePlanet, where she directed the evolution of the first web-based learning management system, the first business-to-business eLearning marketplace and technology-based performance management solutions. She helped both media and industry analysts shape the LMS and e-learning industries. Sue has been interviewed by  The Wall Street JournalFortune MagazineUSA TodayThe New York TimesGreentree Gazette, Workforce Week, and other HR and learning industry publications. She has published articles in  Leadership Excellence, CLOTraining and  T&D Magazines. Sue has spoken at New York University, Bellvue University, ASTD ICE, Tuskegee University, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. And for two years, in 2006 and 2007, she ran Training Director’s Forum on behalf of Training Magazine.

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