11 Best Practices For Reviving Leadership

Research from APQC and Center for Creative Leadership features case studies from Cardinal Health, Caterpillar, Ford Motors, Monsanto, and W. L. Gore, and survey responses from professionals representing 547 organizations

(Houston, Texas – October 6, 2014) – Only 21 percent of organizations say their leadership practices are very effective. These organizations are part of a select group of companies that is faring much better than the rest in terms of building and sustaining the leadership capabilities needed for success, finds a new study conducted by the nonprofit leader in benchmarking and best practices research, APQC in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership. These best-practice organizations take a dynamic approach to leadership, an approach that the study reports is associated with an organization having significantly smaller leadership skills gaps today, and significantly less concern about leadership shortages in the future.

“Current business trends are making it significantly more beneficial for organizations to take a dynamic—as opposed to a traditional—approach to leadership,” said Elissa Tucker, Human Capital Management research program manager for APQC.  “The dynamic leadership style is characterized by flat, community-centered organizational structures. At dynamic leadership organizations, authority is based on knowledge or situation. Goals are shared. Collective work processes and collaboration are the norm. In contrast, the traditional leadership style, with which people are most familiar, is characterized by hierarchical structures, command-and-control procedures, and title- or seniority-based authority.”

APQC’s Human Capital Management research specialist Sue Lam, Ph.D. noted that survey participants working in organizations using the dynamic leadership style report their organizations are significantly more affected by many current business trends including unpredictable events, reduced employee tenure, an aging work force, millennial workers, knowledge work, flat organizational structures, and data analytics. “The dynamic leadership style with its emphasis on collaboration, sharing, and flexibility may be particularly conducive to dealing with current business trends such as the growing importance of knowledge and innovation,” said Lam. 

Despite these benefits, most organizations do not fully embrace dynamic leadership. In fact, only 19 percent of the organizations represented in APQC’s survey do. Yet even survey participants working at traditional organizations agree that current business challenges require a different leadership style, a more dynamic leadership style.

To better understand how organizations can adopt dynamic leadership, APQC conducted interviews with and developed case studies on five organizations that have been recognized as having strong leadership capabilities and for using elements of the dynamic leadership style. Based on interviews with Cardinal Health, Caterpillar, Ford Motors, Monsanto, and W.L. Gore, the research team identified 11 best practices for building and sustaining leadership capabilities in the current business environment. Among the best practices:

  1. Make the organization’s mission and strategy the mandate for leadership. Have more than an HR-mandate for investing in leadership. Have a business mandate.
  2. Define leadership broadly as the responsibility of many or all employees. Develop all employees to lead as the situation and their expertise dictates.
  3. Identify the organization’s core leadership behaviors and tailor these to specific roles. Outline behavioral expectations for “all-employee leaders” that are broad enough to empower individual workers to use their talents but specific enough to minimize confusion and inconsistency.
  4. Communicate leadership behaviors using stories and role models. Use stories and role models to take the core leadership behaviors from being abstract concepts on the corporate intranet to actionable steps that employees use to carry out their daily work. 
  5. Enable “all-employee” leaders to tap organizational intelligence. Allow “all-employee leaders” to tap people and information from anywhere in the organization and use these to guide them as they work in accordance with core leadership behaviors.

The additional best practices are featured in an infographic, research synopsis, and the full best practice research report available online.

About APQC

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the leading proponents of benchmarking and best practice business research. Working with more than 500 organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC focuses on providing organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with confidence. Every day we uncover the processes and practices that push organizations from good to great. Visit us at www.apqc.org or @APQC and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

About The Center For Creative Leadership

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) is a global provider of leadership development and research. Ranked among the world's Top 5 providers of executive education by Financial Times and in the Top 10 by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, CCL helps clients leverage leadership to drive results that matter.

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