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Building Applications That Help Grow Strong Leaders

Posted by Ken Klaus on April 29, 2008

Last week I had the opportunity to attend The Business of Talent conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Kudos to the team at Bersin & Associates for putting together a great conference.) One theme consistently discussed throughout the conference was the need to make leadership development a core part of your talent management strategy. Leadership development goes beyond just training and is equal in importance to recruiting, succession planning and performance management. Most talent management solutions provide applications that help companies to recruit, train, measure, and compensate their workforce. But few have incorporated leadership development as a core business process within the talent management suite; which is interesting since leadership development is generally considered a mission critical part of most business strategies. So the question is how can our talent management solutions help us achieve this critical objective?

First I think it’s important to understand that no software application by itself will ever find the leaders in your organization, let alone develop them (unless of course you have access to Deep Thought or Professor Farnsworth). This is a task for your managers, directors, and senior executives. I also subscribe to the idea that leadership is not tied to a specific role in the company, like manager, vice president or CEO. I think every employee is a potential leader and in my opinion the hallmark of a truly great company is having more leaders than managers, or better yet, just leaders and no managers! With that said, there are some tools your talent management applications ought to provide to assist your organization in identifying and growing your leadership pipeline.

  • First is a configurable profile management application. Profiles tell us everything we need to know about the person and the position. They help us assess whether we have the right people in the right job. Person profiles should include things like risk of loss, impact of loss, personal, professional and developmental goals as well as the skills (competencies) the employee has today. Job profiles include the key competencies, certifications, licenses, education requirements, etc. needed to succeed in the position. A good talent management solution will help you match each employee with the right position.
  • Second are integrated performance, learning and compensation management applications. Having performance management without learning management is like constructing a house with a yardstick and no hammer; why measure if you can’t build. Likewise, having a learning management application without performance management means you can train your employees but can’t measure their growth or level of accomplishment. Compensation helps you recognize and reward good performance; without it you have a stick (performance management) but no carrot and good employees won’t hang around for very long under those conditions.
  • Finally, the talent management suite should include robust analytic tools that aggregate and integrate your data across applications. These tools should help you calibrate performance and potential across the organization; identify risk of loss candidates; craft talent pools and succession plans; and create customized development objectives tied to the key business drivers for your organization.

Most companies believe the best leaders are grown rather than recruited. Individuals who grow up in the organization have already embraced the company’s culture and core values. They understand the business, the market place and most importantly the customer. All they really need is experience and an opportunity to lead. Mark Sanborn writes in You Don’t Need A Title To Be A Leader, “It doesn’t matter what your position is, or how long you’ve worked at your job, whether you help to run your family, a PTA committee, or a Fortune 1000 company. Anyone at any level can learn to be a leader and help to shape or influence the world around them.” Our job as talent management specialists is to provide every employee with the opportunity to become the leaders who will help our organizations succeed and our companies thrive.

7 Responses to “Building Applications That Help Grow Strong Leaders”

  1. Thanks for including my quote and mentioning my book. We need more leaders, not more titles, at every level in our organizations and communities. Keep up the great work.

  2. Ken

    Great post – thanks for sharing. I heard the event was phenomenal – I’m totally jealous that I couldn’t attend.

    Your post reminded me of what we learned about salesforce automation (SFA) implementations a few years back. Those that had 110% buy in from the C-suite succeeded and those that didn’t – somehow, mysteriously, failed. I mean – salespeople generally hate SFAs – hate. But when the C-suite made it a priority – they get in line. Shocking…

    So, maybe in time, the same will be said for talent management suites. Maybe adoption HAS to start at the top. Interesting to me as that would surely change how we sell and market said suites.



    J. William Tincup
    Starr Tincup
    starrtincup.com || jpie.com

  3. Meg Bear said

    @William: at the risk of stating the obvious, I think this is part of the maturity curve of application suites. Right now, Talent is still very fragmented with a lot of departmental sales. Good for building awareness of the space, but not so great for achieving top line (C-suite) value. I believe that this will [is] change[ing] and I think that as this changes more C-level participation will come.

    Good to have people like you join in the dialogue.

  4. Ken Klaus said


    Thanks so much for your comment. We’re big fans of The Fred Factor, so it’s exciting for us to have you join the conversation here on TalentedApps.


  5. Ken –
    I too heard great things about the Bersin conference. It looks like the gap between the software applications and talent management needs is closing. I’m optimistic.

  6. Dave Polacheck said

    Thanks for the inherent challenge in your post. Assessing talent and identifying potential are critical but static steps. Moving an organization (or individual career) forward requires active development with clear results. Reminds me that I’ve got a lot of work to do!

    Also, I couldn’t agree more that “no software application by itself will ever find the leaders in your organization”. All of the data we capture in these processes is just that. I’ve yet to see healthy career/organizational choices made based on the data alone. There is always a context and it is through open dialog that the context is flushed out. It is also through dialog with Manager A about Employee B’s career that Manager A can be enlightened and challenged to be a stronger leader (or worst case Manager A’s limitations can be better understood). To me the complex analysis we do as an output of assessment activities is not an end in and of itself; it serves as a backdrop for a rich and thoughtful dialog which can yield significant results.

    Dave Polacheck

  7. […] don’t have the option of getting new talent, but we have to work with existing talent and identify and develop the necessary skillset to meet our […]

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