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Reginald Jones took the helm at GE in He developed the strategic-planning system he inherited from his predecessors into the model for companies everywhere.


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Recognizing the dawn of a very different environment in , successor Jack Welch proceeded in two or three years to dismantle much of the planning and organizational structure Jones had put in place. Welch sold Utah, acquired RCA, and built a huge financial services business. Entire levels of middle management and staff disappeared. He is making major investments in biosciences, water, security, and platforms for infrastructure growth in emerging countries.

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The stock market is giving him the same cool reception it gave Welch in his first decade, but GE is growing both revenues and profits as it changes. This is a feat that simply cannot be done by a team. It can be pulled off only by an individual with a clear vision. The job is inherently difficult—and becoming more so. CEO turnover is on the rise globally, and studies show that the proportion that can be traced to inadequate performance is steadily trending upward.

Why should the job be harder now than in the past? I see two reasons. First, arguably, market conditions are making the task of getting good results harder. Hypercompetition, changing technology, and a raft of emerging players from every corner of the globe are pressuring companies to keep changing their game, and a lot of firms are just not doing it very well. When I took a look at the performance of U. Second, owner expectations have changed radically.

Institutions count for an increasing share of ownership, and their holding period is getting shorter—under a year is now typical. These are not owners so much as speculators in for the short ride.

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When company performance disappoints, boards of directors tend to seek a white knight from the outside to come in and change everything. Most of the time, the only way to change things fast is to cut costs—which is exactly what someone unfamiliar with the specifics of an industry and its markets, or the company and its people, is likely to do first. Yet a study by Booz Allen reports that outsider CEOs who make a quick mark by cutting costs generally fail to succeed in the long run: After two or three early years of squeezing more to the bottom line, the CEO leaves or sells the company.

This short-term orientation destroys value in the medium and long terms. The seeds of growth are eliminated along with overhead. And where no systematic effort has been made to build future leaders, that perception may be correct. The right thing to do? Consider the four skills that a new CEO needs to drive a company forward and produce the results cited above:. True, carrying out these tasks requires a clear outside perspective. Industries are regularly transformed by changes that disrupt traditional economic relationships. But three of these four leadership skills require extensive inside knowledge.

Better pond, bigger fish

They can assess the talents of their colleagues relative to the skills needed to compete in a new situation. My research suggests that as a rule the best leaders are, therefore, people from inside the company who have somehow maintained enough detachment from the local traditions, ideology, and shibboleths to maintain the objectivity of an outsider. They know the traditions and the people of the company but also know how those will have to change.

They know what best-in-class looks like as well as how the class will change. How do they preserve that view? Often they come from outside the mainstream of the organization. Am I advocating the elevation of eccentrics and misfits? Of course not. I was managing diamonds—industrial diamonds—and semiconductors. Being outside the mainstream allows for a certain detachment from the conventional wisdom and prevents managers from being cowed by a powerful CEO. Being outside the mainstream does two things for a high-potential manager: It allows a certain detachment from the conventional wisdom to develop, and it keeps the manager from being cowed by a powerful CEO.

How do you build a pipeline of future leaders that includes inside-outsiders? It begins with recruiting from a diverse pool of individuals who are both highly talented in their area of specialization and have the potential to be general managers. The best of them will also see the potential for radical improvement, and that vision may ultimately match up with the sense the board and the departing leaders have of where the world is headed. Grooming that kind of insider—the one blessed with an outside view—should be the fundamental goal of the executive development process.

If building the skills these managers need takes a decade or more—and if they are to assume leadership positions while they still have at least a decade of service ahead of them—they need to be on board and identified for grooming by the time they are If you want to become a company leader—and especially if you want to be an inside-outside CEO—you need to manage your own development from the start.


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  • These questions can help you keep the big picture in mind. What high-potentials need is to be handed a series of increasingly complex assignments that give them the chance to manage a whole business as early as possible. That means the company has to be organized into more than one business unit—even if it is basically a one-business company. Sometimes regions are distinct enough to benefit from different managers. Western and Eastern Europe are like that today: One market is mature, highly developed, and very competitive; the other is growing rapidly under rapidly changing conditions. Thus managing them is quite genuinely two different jobs.

    If leaders need a decade to develop and need to take the helm with a decade of service still ahead of them, they need to.

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    As high-potentials move through this series of increasingly complex assignments, performance evaluation is critical. They must be held accountable and learn how to deliver, but they must not be abused by arbitrarily imposed goals. When young managers stumble, they should be mentored by talented senior managers. Senior managers who are overseeing the development of talented junior managers should pay special attention to planning, budgeting, performance evaluation, and compensation—and to how these different processes are linked.

    When managed well, planning and budgeting present an endless series of development opportunities: learning how to present deliverable plans so that they are not arbitrarily raised to meet some corporate aspiration; learning how to ratchet up growth while still delivering current performance; learning how to present new ideas in such a way that they are not underfunded.

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    These challenges involve, on the one hand, being held accountable for deliverables and, on the other, being given space to nurture new activities. Earning and learning require different approaches to evaluation and compensation. Both entail accountability, but one set of targets and measures is pretty clear, while the other is often more ambiguous. Rewards need to reflect each in a way that is understandable.

    An individual might be promoted for success in building an operation over a number of years, for instance, but at the same time be denied a bonus based on a formula related to short-term earnings. Oftentimes, the inside-outsiders appear to present a special challenge.

    They seem like mavericks to the extent that they do see outside the box. What this comes down to is that most people think some of their ideas are really weird. Inside-outsiders need encouragement, as well as protection from old-timers who might be inclined to teach them a lesson.

    That is the job of the mentor. The critical moment is when the young high-potential shows up with something new that just might be important. It may take numerous meetings and a long walk or two to help the high-potential think through what it means to develop an idea in the context of the company. Proficiency in written and spoken English is essential. Students who are admitted to the program will need to meet the minimum technical requirements for our virtual classroom. See the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

    Go to main content. HBS Online. Developing Yourself as a Leader. An online leadership development program from Harvard Business School for the next generation of leaders. Developing Yourself as a Leader Video. Understand your leadership profile Select goals to increase your professional influence and impact Prepare to take advantage of leapfrog opportunities in your career. Design a career path that builds relevant skillsets and channels your passions Explore career transitions including moving up and laterally Enlist colleagues' help in achieving leadership goals and milestones.

    Communicate for influence across the organization Bridge differences and collaborate more effectively Adapt this process to self-develop leadership skills throughout your career. Program Structure for Developing Yourself as a Leader Over 12 dynamic, high-impact weeks, you and a cohort of emerging leaders from around the globe will have a one-of-a-kind leadership development experience combining the time-tested power of the Harvard Business School classroom experience and the personalized attention of one-on-one leadership development coaching — all delivered virtually, in real-time, in our interactive online classroom.

    Step into the shoes of leaders in HBS case studies Tackle real-world leadership challenges with HBS faculty Forge long-lasting relationships with global peers.


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    • Discuss goals and challenges with HBS talent development coaches Apply leadership lessons to your day-to-day context Discover strategies to grow as a leader long after the program ends. Online Course Starts. January Who Would Benefit from Developing Yourself as a Leader Developing Yourself as a Leader is intended for high-potential emerging leaders who want to gain the ability to develop and manage their leadership trajectories. Admissions It is free to apply, and applications are reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis within each round as described in the table below.

      I thoroughly enjoyed the adrenaline of a "cold-call" - a moment to take a question from the Professor and set the scene for the class through your own eyes.

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      This was a class where you could contribute your opinion and hear from two participants who were on opposite sides of the debate, as well as the globe. It was humbling to learn from so many intelligent professors and peers from across the globe. The quality of the class was heightened by the class members and the global aspect of the platform. View More Testimonials.