fingerprintBefore embarking on a framework for leadership development, I suggest three assumptions.

1.  Each leadership position is different.  For example,

  • An executive director for a small, local not-for-profit with a paid staff of three requires leadership, management and supervisory skills, and perhaps some technical knowledge such as fund development.
  • A chief executive officer of a medium manufacturing operation requires leadership and management skills, with perhaps limited supervisory skills and technical knowledges.

2.  Each employee brings different knowledges, skills, strengths, and weaknesses to the leadership position.


3.  Individuals vary in learning styles.

A critical element that learned as an employee in human resources, a trainer, and a senior military officer is that the position or job is a keystone. That is, the position’s duties:

  • Are linked to other positions in the organization and mission requirements
  • Provide the basis for determining what knowledges and skills are expected for the employee to bring to the job and what can be learned after employment
  • Determine training and development requirements
  • Drive the outcomes by which performance is assessed

Therefore, a leadership development plan is unique to each leadership position. However, there are core leadership and management competencies that can serve as a boilerplate, template, or menu for tailoring to the position requirements. There have been opinions expressed that competency-based leadership development is flawed. What would we develop in a leader if not the competencies required to perform duties of the positions? What knowledge does the position require? What skills does the position require?


After determining the core competencies of the specific leadership position, the individual leadership development plan would be tailored based on the knowledge and skills that the incumbent brings to the job. For example, if the incumbent has had successful experience in dealing with conflict, there should not be any need for training or development in conflict resolution.

After selecting the competencies that the incumbent leader should develop, the next step is to determine the training or development options for each competency. Classroom training and seminars aren’t the only options. In some cases, seminars are too expensive or time consuming; for example, for a small, local nonprofit executive director. The core competency training plan should offer development options for each option; for example, coaching, seminar, webinar, reading assignments.

Finally, the individual leadership development plan should include an evaluation component. There should be periodic evaluation of progress and effectiveness of development activities. It is far too common that training and development are assumed to make a difference; that is, improve performance.

The next blog post will cover leadership core competencies.


Officer Candidate SchoolIn my last blog post, Leadership and Management, the Balance, I posed the question: what should leadership programs address? While most literature focuses on interpersonal or social skills of leaders, being a leader also requires the exercise of managerial skills. The last question I posed was, how can we develop both leadership and managerial skills?

Before embarking into the content and structure of leadership development, let’s look at what people say is wrong with leadership development.

Most of the articles begin with a basis that leadership development is big business.

  • Leadership development approached $50 billion in 2000
  • More than 20,000 books and thousands of articles have been written about leadership
  • Publishers, universities, consultants jockey to be ‘go-to’ partners and gurus
  • U.S. business spent more than $170 billion on leadership development

Yes, leadership development is big business. And yes, we have leadership failures. Some attribute the leadership failures directly to failure of leadership development programs. However, I think that’s an unwarranted leap. Individual failures in leadership have many sources: poor assessment of  leadership potential, lack of evaluating candidates during leadership training and development, lack of performance assessment and corrective action of leaders.

Since leadership development is such a big business, it’s easy to find many views on the problems, flaws, and failures of leadership development. Some of the flaws cited are:

  • Leadership development is controlled by one faction of the organization; e.g. executive management or the human resources department. [1]
  • Leadership development is based on the leadership style du jour. [1]
  • Leadership development metrics measure the wrong things. [1]
  • Most initiatives focus on competencies, skill development and techniques, which in some ways is like rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.” [2]
  • Leadership development using a competency-based model.

It is not what a person knows so much as it is how they’re able to use said knowledge to inspire and create brilliance in others that really matters.

One of the problems is competency is predictable and easy to measure, and corporations like predictable and easy. However just because something is easy to measure doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to measure, and certainly not when measured in a vacuum. [3]

  •  “… training is indeed the #1 reason leadership development fails. While training is often accepted as productive, it rarely is. The terms training and development have somehow become synonymous when they are clearly not.

My problem with training is it presumes the need for indoctrination on systems, processes and techniques. Moreover, training assumes that said systems, processes and techniques are the right way to do things. When a trainer refers to something as “best practices” you can with great certitude rest assured that’s not the case. Training focuses on best practices, while development focuses on next practices. Training is often a rote, one directional, one dimensional, one size fits all, authoritarian process that imposes static, outdated information on people. The majority of training takes place within a monologue (lecture/presentation) rather than a dialog. Perhaps worst of all, training usually occurs within a vacuum driven by past experience, not by future needs. [4]

How should a leadership development program be structured and what should it contain? The next blog post will look at a framework.



1. Douglas A. Ready and Jay A. Conger, Why Leadership Development Efforts Fail, MITSloan Management Review, Spring 2003

2. Ray Williams; Why leadership development fails to produce good leaders; Financial Post; November 3, 2013

3. Mike Myatt; The Most Common Leadership Model – And Why It’s Broken; Forbes; March 28, 2013

4. Mike Myatt; The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails; Forbes; December 19, 2013

teeter totter There are as many ideas about leadership development as there are leaders, managers, supervisors, boards of directors, consultants, business schools, and employees.

What should leadership programs address? Web searches for articles about leadership skills, tend to result in sites that predominantly address interpersonal or social skills.  However, leaders who do not manage are likely to have failures; for example, President Obama’s failure to manage implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes in What Inexperienced Leaders Get Wrong  (HBR Blog Network, November 21, 2013),

Much has been made of the distinction between leadership and management. Too many managers, not enough leaders, the critics say. …But my work with numerous top executives shows that this is a false choice. Great leaders also have managerial inclinations. They are practical as well as visionary. They care about efficiency. They might not be the ones to roll up their sleeves for the tasks of execution, but they know what to ask of those who do. These abilities grow with experience.

The question might also be asked as, should leaders focus on results or on people?  The answer is yes. Matthew Lieberman answers this question in Should Leaders Focus on Results, or on People?  (HBR Blog Network, December 27, 2013).

A lot of ink has been spilled on peopleʼs opinions of what makes for a great leader. As a scientist, I like to turn to the data. In 2009, James Zenger published a fascinating survey of 60,000 employees to identify how different characteristics of a leader combine to affect employee perceptions of whether the boss is a “great” leader or not. Two of the characteristics that Zenger examined were results focus and social skills. Results focus combines strong analytical skills with an intense motivation to move forward and solve problems. But if a leader was seen as being very strong on results focus, the chance of that leader being seen as a great leader was only 14%. Social skills combine attributes like communication and empathy. If a leader was strong on social skills, he or she was seen as a great leader even less of the time — a paltry 12%.

However, for leaders who were strong in both results focus and in social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a great leader skyrocketed to 72%.

On the other hand, CEOs and boards of directors have a different view of the skills in which they need coaching as shown in a survey of over 200 CEOs, boards of directors, and senior executives conducted in 2013 by the Stanford Center for Leadership Development and Research and The Miles Group.  (Research: What CEOs Really Want from Coaching, HBR Blog Network, August 15, 2013)

The Stanford/Miles survey questions emphasized social skills with respect to the questions posed. The following table depicts the top six skills that CEOs and boards believed needed development with rank order and the percentage of positive response. [http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/cldr/research/surveys/coaching.html]


Based on my personal experience in leadership positions, I believe that leaders must practice management skills as well.  If a leader does not manage the execution of his/her vision, is that leadership?

Linda Hill and Kent Lineback stated the need for both leadership and managerial skills clearly and convincingly in the HBR article, “I’m a leader, not a manager!” (HBR Blog Network, December 14, 2011)

Most writers about leadership then and now explicitly note the continuing importance of management. Success still depends on execution, controls and boundaries, systems, processes, and continuity. Without all that, leadership only produces dreams. Nonetheless, being a leader has taken on a shiny, romantic aura these days while management has been given an undertone of grubby practicality. Leaders are superior beings who inspire the rest of us to greatness while managers are dull business functionaries obsessed with budgets, schedules, policies, and procedures.

Both leadership and management are crucial, and it doesnʼt help those responsible for the work of others to romanticize one and devalue the other. To survive and succeed, all groups and businesses must simultaneously change in some ways and remain the same in others. They must execute and innovate, stay the course and foster change. Yes, the guidance, group skills, and mindsets required for serious change and innovation differ from those needed for continuity and steady execution. But that only means those in charge must be able to act as both change agent and steward of continuity, manager and leader, as the situation requires. The challenge is to discern when one versus the other is needed. To idealize leadership and demean management only makes that challenge even harder.

How can we develop both leadership and managerial skills?  How can develop the ability to discern when to apply management or leadership?

committeeHow does an all-volunteer nonprofit board manage its operations as well as execute its governance responsibilities?

Some nonprofits with paid staff establish a COO position, the Chief Operating Officer, similar to their for-profit counterparts. The COO ensures that day-to-day operations of the nonprofit operate effectively. The COO’s primary role is to monitor and coordinate, “A nonprofit COO works with individual department heads to monitor their work, not only ensuring each function stays on track to meet its goals, but also making sure each department understands its role in relation to the other departments and the nonprofit’s mission.” (Job Description for a Chief Operating Officer for a Non-Profit Organization, Dave Samuels, Houston Chronicle) Additional information about the COO can also be found at The Bridgespan Group’s Nonprofit COOs 101.

How does a nonprofit with a traditional board structure of executive committee, finance committee, and fundraising committee successfully manage fairly complex operations without a chief operating officer?

I found minimal guidance on this question on the web. One article was recently posted on Nonprofit Quarterly, “What Staff?  Keeping Operations and Governance Separate in an Organization with No Staff” (September 27, 2013).

The author, Mitch Dorger, was confronted by this issue at a workshop he conducted. After the workshop, he posed the question to experts on an online discussion group, receiving the following options.

  1. Establish both governance and operational committees
  2. Establish two boards: governance and administrative
  3. Separate the roles of board officers: the vice president, treasurer, and secretary oversee operations; the president and remaining directors address governance
  4. Divide board meeting to address both operational and governance issues
  5. Establish three new committees: operations oversight, organizational development, and organizational future in lieu of traditional board committees

There is significant literature on nonprofit board governance and structure. However, how does a board decide on a structure to ensure that operations are properly managed? Just as governance has a leadership team of the executive committee, the key is to establish a leadership team for operations: program, finance, fundraising, information/data, and communications/marketing.

Just as a COO would meet with each member of this leadership team to monitor performance and ensure coordination, the all-volunteer nonprofit needs to provide a venue for operational management. An operations committee composed of these chairs, at a minimum, would be responsible for operations planning and execution. In lieu of the COO meeting with the heads of each operational function, the operations committee meets to coordinate, monitor, and oversee operations.

Since the nonprofit’s board of directors is responsible for the mission of the organization, it is appropriate for a portion of the board meeting to address operational performance. Rather than having each member of the operational leadership team address his/her function at the board meeting, it might be worth considering establishing a quasi-COO role on the board of directors to report on operations overall. I suggest that the board vice-president serve in the quasi-COO role as the chair of the operations committee.  This balances the two top positions on the board to cover governance and operations.

Four articles recently issued on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network thoughtfully address the good, the bad, and the ugly of data visualizations.

In The Power of Visualization’s “Aha!” Moments, (March 19, 2013) Scott Berinato interviews Amanda Cox, graphics editor at the New York Times.  Cox states, “I wish there were more examples where dataviz actually mattered.”

Cox asserts that “[t]he ability to ask good questions is really what we start with.”  Cox points to the critical issue of data visualization, be it a bar/line chart or poster with numbers; that is, what question does it answer.

Data viz is both young and not young. It’s still rapidly changing, so I’m hoping it gets more awesome rapidly. But we’re already at a place where we can make people understand what they didn’t understand. Now we want to make people understand what no one has understood before. The best visualizations cause you to see something you weren’t expecting, and allow you to act on it.

Bill Franks provides some examples of good visuals in The Value of a Good Visual: Immediacy (March 19, 2013).

Our brains are meant to see in pictures. Grids and columns of data, while ubiquitous, make it very difficult to see trends or patterns. Additionally, a lot of the new data sources available today, such as genetic data or social network data, don’t lend themselves to traditional spreadsheets and graphs. These data types require a different way of displaying them to allow us tosee the underlying patterns and stories in the data.

I agree with Franks that certain data sets are better represented with data visualization tools.  The challenge is finding the appropriate analysis tool (visualization) for the data.  Sometimes the bar / line chart or a table is sufficient to answer the “good question” that started process.

As an example of bad visuals, Gardiner Morse ardently reprises It’s Time to Retire ‘Crap Circles’ (March 19, 2013).

Every time I encounter a crap circle my heart sinks. crap circleI first wrote (http://hbr.org/2005/11/crap-circles/ar/1) about these contemptible “information” graphics in HBR in 2005, and since then they’ve only seemed to multiply. You know what these are— you may have even used them — though you may not have had a name for them. I aim to change that. These perniciouscircles-and-arrows diagrams infest PowerPoint and other business presentations, purporting to clarify an idea while actually obscuring it.

The next time you find yourself preparing a circle for a presentation, ask yourself if the process you’re describing really works the way you say it does. And the next time a presenter trots out a circle tomake a point, find the bogus links and put him on the spot. We could all benefit from a little more linear thinking.

We’ve Reached Peak Infographic, and We’re No Smarter for It concludes Dylan C. Lathrop (March 19, 2013). Lathrop begins, “If I were to chart the evolution of my attitude toward infographics over time, it would start with a soaring arc, dip and rise, then drop into a steady flat line.”

Lathrop asserts, “It’s time we acknowledge the shortcomings of infographics as much as we celebrate their upsides.”

Our data is growing more complicated just as readers are getting less patient. Even the best illustration can’t bridge the comprehension gap.

Today, many people just don’t want to [read]. There’s never been more data at our fingertips, but most of us have trouble making sense of that glut of information unless it’s shaped into cohesive nuggets. Enter the modern infographic, which has moved away from the elegant simplicity of the Isotype icons in favor of communicating entire data sets in one smartly designed package.

Lathrop concludes,

Infographics can evolve by transcending cold data-breakdown, and combining data visualization with more human narratives. Some publications have begun to present well-designed information in tandem with deeply reported pieces online, and the future it represents is thrilling. I’m not ready for an infographic about the death of infographics, but I’m sure someone somewhere has already assigned that piece, and is just waiting for us all to click.

Every once in a while I remind myself that I am retired. I know I’m older, I feel it in my back. Specifically, I am a boomer retiree. And oh my, we are in the news a lot.  One reason is in our numbers. [Source: Marc Freedman, A New Vision for Retirement: Productive and Meaningful, HBR Blog Network, February 25, 2013]

  • 10,000 boomers turning 60 each day
  • By 2015 we’ll have more Americans over 60 than under 15

While I do volunteer work in the community, two recent articles describe other ways in which boomers are viable and productive participants in our communities.

Anay Kamenentz in Boomers Take More Risks, Start More Business Than Twentysomethings: Study, (Fast Company, February 27, 2013) writes,

Two big studies of hundreds of successful companies found the average age of founders at the time they got going was from 39 to 41. A separate analysis of Kauffman Foundation data in 2009 found that the average age of entrepreneurs is actually rising, with the largest growth in the 55–64 age range–and the smallest growth among 20- to 34-year-olds.

Boomers are more risk tolerant and label themselves as entrepreneurial more than gen-Y-ers according to Kamenentz citing a national survey. Kamenentz provides several potential reasons, the final reason referring to Marc Freedman. Kamenentz writes.

Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures argues, people in the second half of life are more likely to be looking for a way to combine “passion, purpose, and a paycheck,” looking for work that marries their values and interests, and allows them to leave a legacy. That is, they may be taking more risks because they have less to lose in pursuit of work that feeds their souls.

This entrepreneurial spirit among boomers presents itself in other perspectives. In A New Vision for Retirement: Productive and Meaningful, (HBR Blog Network, February 25, 2013), Marc Freedman posits that the baby boomer generation

represents a human capital bonanza for the social impact sector and for the nation more broadly. It’s time to fulfill the true promise of longer lives — which is a better society.

Freedman cites research that indicates that

[S]ome 31 million people ages 44 to 70 want encore careers that allow them to continue earning a living and give them meaning that has an impact beyond themselves. They want to create a better world for future generations.

Freedman provides examples of boomer extensions of working lives.

  • “TFA [Teach for America] reports that there is a gradual but steady increase in post-midlife individuals entering the program — something that the organization hopes will expand as it attempts to attract a diverse corps of talented and committed people of all ages.”
  • Encore Fellowships programs at the California Health Care Foundation, Cisco, and Intel

Freedman also notes, “We’ll need new ways to help individuals finance the frequently costly transition to what’s next.” That’s a subject for another series of blog posts.



A retrospective of my journey into strategic performance management (my last five blog posts). There were two issues that I encountered in my exploration of strategic performance management.  One was terminology and the other was wondering where strategic planning may fit in.

Terminology There were some key terms that were commonly used: strategy, outcome, and objective. In some cases author(s) did not define key terms, which contributed to complexity in comparing comparing articles. For example, in one document the author refers to policy objectives whereas another author may refer to policy outcomes in a similar situation.

After looking back at my posts, I acknowledge that I failed to define terms in some cases. In case you desire to look at my previous posts, these are the definitions for key terms.

Activity — actions taken (e.g., training workshop, meeting)

Assumption — principles, beliefs, or ideas that are the basis for how and why the program will work

Desired Results — vision of the future, including short- and long-term outcomes

External Factors — conditions that may affect the program

Outcome — specific changes expected in individuals or the community based on the organization’s activities

Strategy — broad, coordinated approach to achieve an outcome or a goal

As you have read, I used the term outcome in the development of strategic performance management framework for my fictitious not-for-profit. I felt that outcome was the more appropriate concept in this context, that is, at the strategic level. I consider objective as a tactical or operational term, and I believe it’s more suited for use in strategic planning.

Strategic Plan? Where does strategic planning fit with strategic performance management? I suggest that the strategic plan follows developing the strategic performance management plan. The strategy and outcome map (step 2) provides the framework for the strategic plan.

The strategic plan identifies the time-specific goals and objectives to implement the strategies and perform the activities towards achieving the outcomes. Briefly, goals are statements related to outcomes and objectives are SMART intermediate steps toward achieving goals.

  • S pecific
  • M easurable
  • A ttainable
  • R elevant
  • T ime-framed

While I was looking for an image for this post, I was trying to find a way of describing the strategic performance management and strategic plan processes in everyday language. The architectural plan seemed the most appropriate. Architectural plans correspond to strategic performance management. Whereas, the strategic plan is the construction project management plan. How do you think they fit together?

This journey has been a brief excursion into strategic performance management, more or less to chart one possible route. It has given me one systematic method of linking the vision, mission, strategies and outcomes as well as identifying potential indicators to continually evaluate organizational performance. Development of the logic model articulates the assumptions and external factors that may need to be addressed when reviewing performance indicators. Development of key questions regarding outcomes leads to developing measures that provide information toward answering those questions, thus linking back to outcomes. Lots of charts. I wonder if I should try to put them all together. Would that be a tangled web or an interesting infographic?

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