I had the privilege of spending three days this past week with Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner along with 250 other leadership professionals at the Leadership Challenge Forum in San Francisco. Three days of workshops, case studies and speakers, including leadership guru Ed Schein. I also had the privilege of presenting our Teambuilding with a Difference workshop using handbells with my partner Nikki Attwell.
The highlight of any of these kinds of events is meeting other individuals from all over the world who have a passion for leadership development. At this conference there were people from the US, Canada, China, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Britain, Ireland and Hong Kong. There were lots of opportunities for learning, sharing ideas and networking. Connecting with others around the globe provides a unique insight into leadership challenges others face. Interestingly, research shows that gender, age, ethnic background, culture or sex has no significant impact on issues leaders deal with. There is no difference were leaders live or work, they face the same set of challenges.
Providing leadership development and support ranks high on organizations agendas. A recent study showed that 97% of companies ranked leadership development as one of their top priorities. When asked when leadership development should begin, the research showed most organizations believe around the age of 21. This got me thinking, why is it that the research shows organisations believe that leadership is so important, but the reality is that when push comes to shove, it generally doesn’t happen? It seems that when faced with the cost of such development they back away from it. This is obviously an issue, but how do we solve it?
Developing leaders for the future is critical if we are to continue to have healthy organizations, both for profit and non-profit. Saving by spending less now is not cost effective. There is a correlated example – education. An article form The San Jose Mercury News dated May 16, 2014 highlights how the cost of poor education is related to the high cost of prisons. In California it costs (in 2014) $9,200 to educate a K-12 student but $62,000 to cover the cost of a prison inmate, a 7-1 ratio. As Victor Hugo stated, “He who opens a school door closes a prison”. Studies show that when introducing leadership principles in high school it is having a profound result on student’s results. To bring it back to leadership development, we can invest in leadership development and principles early in an individual’s career or we can pay the costs down the road. When there is an opportunity to develop the leaders of the future, we should take it.