Tuesday, March 2, 2010

REDUX: A Review of BusinessWeek’s Best Companies For Leadership

Full disclosure - for a number of years I was engaged in a consulting relationship with BusinessWeek in their creative organization.

As I was writing my notes for this article, one song resonated in my head, James Brown’s, “Talkin’ Loud & Sayin’ Nothing.” While long in length, I found the article was short on substance. That said, here's my main points of contention with this article.

What’s In A Sample Size?
Respondents to this survey numbered 1,869 individuals from 1,109 organizations. With 740 organizations in the final ranking, the size of the data set is small and included some results being combined when respondents represented the same company. No mention was made of how many companies were “invited” to participate or what the criteria for participation consisted of.

All Big, No Small
Every company listed is a juggernaut in its’ category. Is one to assume that true leadership exists only in the very largest of global companies? Or, is it as the article suggests, that leadership can only be found where significant investment of time and money are made? For my money, one of the best guides to customer service and leadership is found at a small deli in Ann Arbor that made it very big by making the connection that great leadership is about great service.

Enter James Brown...
The article then asserts the need for Leadership is ever-present, in bad times and good times stating, “While the data suggest there is no one best way to grow leaders, the companies that do it best share certain key characteristics. The top 20 companies address leadership development on multiple fronts, from articulating how leadership behavior needs to change to meet the challenges of the future to managing their pools of successors for mission-critical roles. And, despite the chaotic, crisis-strewn atmosphere of the past year, they've continued to make leadership a top priority.”

Well, duh....

I Think We Can All Agree, Leadership Is A Good Thing
After finishing the article, I went back and read it again to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I didn’t. Though it whet my appetite and, “While the data suggest there is no one best way to grow leaders, the companies that do it best share certain key characteristics.” The article never goes on to unveil those characteristics or how to cultivate them. On this point, I have to say the article was a failure for me. I was expecting tips on how to find, cultivate and sustain leadership. Instead what BusinessWeek has proffered is a narrowly focused survey, insights culled from that dubious source, and sprinkled it with soundbites that hearken those awful motivational posters.

So, how do you develop leaders and leadership? Stick around to find out or better still, drop me a comment with your tips!

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