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The characteristics of great leader-builder companies

Companies that want to do a great job of developing leaders first have to learn how to become great leader-builder companies.

By Douglas van den Berghe . 01 September 2004

Companies that want to do a great job of developing leaders first have to learn how to become great leader-builder companies.
The characteristics of great leaderbuilder companies

So, writes Douglas A. Ready, instead of focusing more attention on the traits of effective leaders, it’s time to focus on what makes effective leader-builder companies.


Companies that want to do a great job of developing leaders first have to learn how to become great leader-builder companies. So, writes Douglas A. Ready, instead of focusing more attention on the traits of effective leaders, it’s time to focus on what makes effective leader-builder companies.

For the past several decades, executives and HR managers have struggled with the question of understanding the characteristics of next generation leaders: What skills and competencies will these leaders need in order to be effective in tomorrow’s large complex organisations? This has been serious work with an important purpose, but the time has come to start asking more penetrating questions. To help top executives think through the challenges of developing a cadre of next-generation leaders, I led a team of researchers to examine the leadership development practices of 45 large global companies. We interviewed CEOs, senior executives, HR specialists and people identified as highpotential leaders. While we probed the skills and competencies questions, we also wanted to dig deeper in order to help companies better understand how to develop a distributed leadership capability. In the course of this work, we discovered four characteristics in companies that have a solid pipeline of leaders – characteristics that comprise the great leader-builder companies:


  • They articulate leadership development as a toplevel strategic priority.
  • They build outstanding HR functions that create powerful infrastructures for leadership development.
  • They reward and support next-generation leaders in multiple ways.
  • They create an organisational culture that facilitates the development of leaders.


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