One of the most important lessons I learned in my earliest years of leadership development was one size does not fit all.  Instead of selfishly expecting everyone to adjust to my leadership style, I had to adjust my leadership style to suit the situation and the personalities involved.  Once I learned that lesson, results tended to be better.

In an analogous fashion, Marcus Buckingham contends one size does not fit all in leadership development.  In his Harvard Business Review blog post (“How to Give Every Employee Customized Leadership Advice” 6/11/12), Buckingham makes the case for a new and dynamic approach to ongoing leadership development of an organization’s employees:

“We need a new model—one that is scalable but accommodates the uniqueness of each leader’s techniques; one that is stable enough to permit the training of hundreds of leaders at once but dynamic enough to incorporate and distribute new practices and other innovations in real time.”

Buckingham goes on to describe a complex, algorithmic-based leadership development tool that uses highly accurate situational and behavioral scenarios first to learn the leadership style of the individual.  Once the tool “knows” the individual, it is able to suggest specific techniques to improve that person’s leadership effectiveness.  Buckingham explains:

“We made the system dynamically intelligent.  Intrinsic to the notion of a personalization algorithm is that it must get to know you better over time.  With every interaction, the app adds detail to your leadership profile.  As you rate the effectiveness of the techniques you receive, the system tracks your reactions and becomes smarter about which techniques to feed you.”

Precisely because the system learns who you are in great detail, that knowledge informs the system how best to feed you additional suggestions without violating your core personality.  As Buckingham powerfully summarizes:

“Because the suggestions reflect only what has worked for others who ‘look like’ the recipients, they accelerate creativity without eroding authenticity.”

I absolutely love this approach.  Our organizations will only be as good as the quality of our leaders.  The more effectively we can accelerate the growth of our leaders the more effectively we can accelerate the growth of our organizations.

Leadership development is such a personal journey.  Having an algorithm-based tool that reads who you are and what you need holds tremendous promise.  Intrinsically, this approach will not guarantee every leader will become a clone of some idealized leader.  Rather, it guarantees every leader will become the very best he or she can become while building on that person’s unique personality, skills, talent, and experience.


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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Tyco Integrated Security at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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