No, this is not another posting about the political landscape in America! Yet the recent election process did bring to mind an interesting observation about human nature, and its link to leadership.
We like to take large, complex issues, and break them down into two poles on opposite ends. So we get expressions for American politics such as red states and blue states. We developed computer language that is binary, a 1 or a 0 that tells the computer what to do. We talk about an issue being either black or white. And when we call something gray, that means we don't understand it well enough to classify it.
Along these lines, I believe there are two types of organizations in this world. There are those who choose to cut leadership development in tough times, and those who maintain or increase their investment in their leaders.
Some organizations view development of their leaders as an expense. If some companies are faced with cash flow issues or potential bankruptcy, cash costs are a luxury that can not be afforded at the moment. Yet many organizations cut leadership development and call it being prudent, or conservative. For these organizations, developing people is a cost of doing business, no different than travel or office expense.
Other organizations take a different view. They continue to invest in developing their leaders, and in some cases, increase their investment. They view development as an investment in their people and their organization. Rob Greenwood, a colleague and partner in BRANTA Worldwide, was recently discussing potential business in leader development with a CEO. The CEO said “There's no sense in wasting a good recession”.
Put away the pitchforks and torches! He was not referring to the misery we are suffering as part of the global recession. He was referring to the fact while competitors were pulling back on “discretionary” expenses like leadership development, his firm was increasing its investment in leaders. He wanted to ensure his leaders could lead through the current downturn, and more importantly, when the economy picks up steam again.
Is your view of leadership development today as simple as a glass half-empty? Or a glass half-full?