Pierre Battah: The business of leadership

Money Talks is a daily business column from CBC radio.

Pierre Battah is a management consultant specializing in Human Resources and an associate professor at Mount Allison University.

The business of leadership getting the attention it deserves. We have so many compelling reasons to get people-management done right within our organizations. With painful labour shortages, costly retention issues and a fiercely competitive labour market, it is surprising how little time and attention many organizations pay to the business of leadership and leadership development in its supervisors, middle and senior managers.

Promoting exemplary doers into people leadership roles is still common practice and while that in itself may not seem problematic, the lack of investment in those people’s leadership competencies certainly is. As one business leader told me recently, "When I lose a valuable employee it hurts. It hurts much more to know they liked their work and the company, but had to quit their boss. That tells me we failed on a number of levels."

The study of people in organizations has provided us with an ever-evolving body of knowledge and excellent tools to develop leadership ability. Although some organizations seize that opportunity, many do not if topics like abusive supervision still warrant academic study as undertaken by Mount Allison University’s Dr. Gina Grandy. She has looked at boss behaviour, and through her inquiry she speaks of supervision tactics that are not only ineffective, they simply do not belong against the backdrop of ever increasing costs of hiring and re-training.

Some have learned their lessons well. Many of the senior executives who run award-winning organizations cite their enhanced focus on leadership and leadership development as key to their success. As an Atlantic Canadian CEO of the year mused recently, only when leaders at all levels take the business of leading people as their primary focus can his organization achieve its financial objectives.

Evolution Consulting Group founder and Leadership Development expert Diane Allain puts it into perspective when she reminds audiences of senior managers that leadership development is not a program in our best-run organizations, it is a hallmark of their work culture and part of a larger sustainable people strategy that translates into appropriate financial investment.

Allain reminds her audiences that the organizations that "get it" tightly align individual leaders’ training plans to the business needs of the organization. The carefully concocted recipe is a blend of on site leadership forums, web and off site learning, mentoring and coaching while using the real time requirements of leader’s current or future role as the backdrop. It becomes a thoughtful assignment of accountability that develops leaders in targeted areas for their own growth and builds succession capability for the employer.

The costs of our current and looming labour market challenges has organizations taking a hard look at how to be successful in this new reality. Surely many will see investing in the business of leadership as the answer.