Are You Doing Things ‘to’ Your Leaders or ‘with’ Them? [Guest Post]

Leaders Ready Now


(This post is an excerpt from the introduction to Leaders Ready Now.)

Are You Doing Things to Your Leaders or with Them?

As a business leader, you may speak frequently to individuals or groups of executives about the future of the business, and perhaps you review key leaders’ development plans or even act as a mentor. All these activities are useful, but they are not what accelerated learners really want and need most from you—and they are not the activities that generate the greatest amount of energy in an acceleration system.

Ask any motivated, emerging leader what would truly ignite his or her energy, and the answer will likely involve working with senior leaders to solve current business dilemmas. As one acceleration-program participant put it, “The leadership training is good, but what I really want is a piece of the action.” She wasn’t talking about more money; she wanted a piece of the business action—to work more closely with leaders who were in the thick of it.

This doesn’t mean that you have to put core businesses at risk by giving junior executives too much responsibility—it means that top leaders need to reframe the ways in which they spend time with accelerated learners and create development experiences that are truly transformational. Instead of offering a problem for an individual learner to solve alone (with tips and guidance from a senior leader), the organization needs to pinpoint a problem that a senior leader or team currently faces and then enlist the accelerated learner to help solve it. Leaders and learners should work on business challenges together, learning and growing simultaneously.

To learn the game, one must play the game. If you aim to prepare more leaders—and do it more quickly—you must put them in the game, and much sooner than what might feel comfortable. You must play with them, learning and growing together, faster than you otherwise would.


Matthew J. Paese, Ph.D., is Vice President of Succession and C-Suite Services for Development Dimensions International (DDI). Matt’s work has centered on the application of succession, assessment, and development approaches as they apply to boards, CEOs, senior management teams, and leaders across the pipeline. He consults, coaches, speaks, and conducts research around all those topics and more.

Audrey B. Smith, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President for Global Talent Diagnostics at DDI. Audrey’s customer-driven innovation and global consulting insights have helped shape DDI’s succession, selection, and development offerings, from the C-suite to the front line. She has been a key strategist and solution architect, encompassing technology-enabled virtual assessments and development aligned to current business challenges.

William C. Byham, Ph.D., is Executive Chairman of DDI. He cofounded the company in 1970 and has worked with hundreds of the world’s largest organizations on executive assessment, executive development, and succession management. Bill authored Zapp!® The Lightning of Empowerment, a groundbreaking book that has sold more than 3 million copies. He has coauthored 23 other books, including seminal works on the assessment center method.


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