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  • Writer's pictureNick Petrie

The Leadership Development Disconnect: Why Leadership Development Goes Down the Drain

I once heard a great story from Steve Kerr, who was the chief learning officer of G.E. under Jack Welch. He said that for a long period, GE’s reputation for developing leaders was so good that he constantly had visitors wanting to tour their corporate university at Crotonville to discover the secret sauce. At the end of the tour, he said they would invariably turn to him and say, “Steve, I don’t understand, it doesn’t look that different from what our company does.” Steve would reply, “We don’t produce great leaders because we have the greatest programs. We produce them because we are the world’s greatest plumbers.”

After a long silence Steve would explain, “At GE, we decide on the behaviors we want to see from leaders then hook up all the plumbing: hiring, feedback, incentives, systems, culture, and promotions. All of it is connected together to drive the leadership behaviors that the business wants. Most companies do great trainings, but they forget to connect the plumbing and it all goes down the sink.”

It is a great metaphor because it is often so true. What have you seen about the link to leadership development and the rest of the plumbing of the workplace? Do you know any companies that do it particularly well?

To speak to Nick about bringing vertical leadership development into your organization send a LinkedIn message or email


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