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March 2011
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TD Magazine

Executive Support Is Not Enough

In this volatile business environment, developing the next generation of leaders is vital to the success of any organization. That makes successful leadership development initiatives must-haves in all workplaces.

As you will read in this month's cover articles on CEO Doug Conant and Campbell Soup Company, developing leaders is a strategic imperative that involves a strong commitment from Conant and his executive team. Conant develops content, teaches that content, and interacts daily with the participants of the Campbell CEO Institute.

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"The amount of time Doug dedicates to this endeavor is rarely seen among CEOs. Many CEOs may address similar groups for a few hours," Nancy Reardon, senior vice president and chief HR and communications officer, wrote in her article about Campbell University and the CEO Institute. "Not Doug. He's all in. An active instructor, he's fully present during the entire two-year journey. He is deeply committed to sharing his leadership experience with others."

According to Edward J. Ludwig, chair and CEO of Becton, Dickinson and Company, the role of a teacher is not optional for CEOs in today's business world. "It's part of the job," he wrote in the forward of Edward Betof's book, Leaders as Teachers. "I believe that education in which we participate contributes to making the company grow faster, become more profitable, and achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction."

Conant stressed in the article that he placed more of a priority on leadership development during the recession. "One thing that I have done is become more visible to the organization. Every time I have a free 30 minutes I put on my walking shoes and walk the halls. It gives me a chance to see people, speak with them, and create touch points that are so critical when the world feels a little unstable. In challenging times, leaders need to be seen."

The support and values that Conant brings to Campbell has paid dividends. In 2009 and 2010 the company earned rankings on lists of Best Places to Work, Most Ethical Companies, Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles, Best Corporate Citizens, and Best Global Brands.

Learning executives must not only create executive support of their leadership development initiatives, but they also must use the knowledge and experience of company executives as part of the programs if they want to change the culture of the organization to one of employee development because as Ludwig wrote, "A company's only sustainable competitive advantage is the ability to innovate, adapt, learn, and create new value of its customers. When leaders serve as teachers, this is more likely to occur."

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Paula Ketter

Editor, T+D

[email protected]

About the Author

Paula Ketter is ATD's content strategist. Previously, she served as editor of ATD's periodicals.

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